Baby Gates Safety: the Do’s and Don’ts

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Like any product meant to promote safety, baby gates also need to be used safely. Even a life vest can be dangerous if it isn’t used the right way! Because children will experiment and play with baby gates, you need to make sure that they are properly installed, used the correct way, and even taken down at the right time.

Before you start installing baby gates around your home, here are some do’s and don’ts you need to keep in mind. This will ensure that you use them right.

Do: Use hardware mounting at the top of stairs.

Baby gates come in two versions: pressure-mounted and hardware-mounted. Pressure-mounted gates hold themselves in place through tension. Hardware-mounted gates hold themselves with screws and bolts. You should always use hardware-mounted gates at the top of stairs.

Pressure-mounted gates can be great in other areas of the home, and make it so that you don’t need to put any holes in your walls. But at the top of stairs, it’s very dangerous, because they will give way if too much weight is put on them. Learn more about Pressure-Mounted vs Hardware-Mounted Baby Gates.

dos and don'ts of baby gates

Don’t: Forget to install a baby gate at the bottom, too.

You aren’t done once you’ve installed a gate at the top of the stairs. A lot of parents forget about the bottom of the stairs, because you can’t fall up stairs, can you? But what you can do is crawl up stairs and then fall down them. 

Stairs are naturally intriguing to babies. They want to climb up them to see what’s there. And they can easily slip and fall halfway up, especially if the stairs don’t offer a lot of traction. Protect your baby by installing a gate at the bottom as well as the top.

Do: Research your baby gate’s brand and model.

You should find a baby gate that has good reviews online. There are tons of gates out there, and not all of them are made by reputable companies. Some of them may be very flimsy and mostly designed just for looks. 

You can look online at Better Business Bureau ratings, and at blogs from parents just like you. Be skeptical about reviews on third-party sites like eBay and Amazon, as they’re often paid reviews.

Don’t: Use used, broken, or faulty gates.

For a lot of furniture, getting used items is just great. And a lot of people get baby gates as hand-me-downs. But you need to be careful. Baby gates experience a lot of wear-and-tear. They’re opened and closed constantly. And that also means that they can become broken and faulty easily.

A broken gate doesn’t just run the risk of not working, it runs the risk of hurting someone. If it falls apart unexpectedly or if it has rough or broken edges, it could hurt anyone in contact with it. 

In the long run, it’s better to just get a new gate. At a minimum, you should inspect any gently used gates thoroughly to make sure that they aren’t going to fall apart when they’re being used. Read more on how to choose safe baby gates.

Do: Keep your baby gates closed and latched. 

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Over time, it’s easy to get into the habit of leaving the gates open. You may start to become less vigilant. Your child has never gone for the laundry room, so why bother putting a gate up around the laundry room?

But the truth is that a baby will start to explore these areas eventually, and it may be when you least expect it. You need to keep baby gates closed and latched all the time, or they aren’t going to be useful.

Don’t: Leave your baby unattended even with the gate.

The gate doesn’t make it possible to leave your baby unattended. Rather, they’re supposed to make up for brief moments of inattention. Perhaps you’re reading a book near your baby, and your baby immediately runs for the door. Babies can move much faster than it seems.

You shouldn’t leave your baby unattended even with a gate, unless the baby is, for instance, sleeping with the crib, and a gate at the nursery is incidental. This is true even for a few minutes. It may seem safe to leave your child for just a few minutes, but you’d be surprised what a baby can get into in just a few minutes.

Do: Remove the gates when your baby is ready.

At around two years of age, your baby is going to be a toddler, and they’re going to be very mobile. At this age, you’re going to need to start to foster independence, and start removing the baby gates. After all, you can’t leave the gates up all the time for the rest of your child’s life!

Of course, every child is different, and every timeline is different. Your baby may be ready to have the gates removed in a year and a half, or may still like the gates after three years. You need to watch your child’s activities. Speaking of that…

Don’t: Let your baby start climbing over the gates.

Once your baby starts climbing over the gates, that’s usually when your baby is ready. Now, most parents don’t just let their child start climbing the gates. But parents can start to notice that babies are now interested in the gates, or that they’re starting to climb them. And that can very quickly spiral. Babies become strong very fast.

Before your baby gets to two years of age, you should inspect your gates and make sure that there aren’t any easy footholds or pull points. Some gates are easier to climb than others. Is your gate slippery and difficult to grab? Or is your gate rough-textured and easy to scale?

For the most part, a baby gate should be relatively common sense. Make sure it’s sturdy. Install it properly. And always monitor how your baby interacts with the gate. Remember: A gate isn’t meant to replace watching the child, but it can be extremely useful during moments of understandable inattention. 

Now you’re ready to install baby gates the right way, and to protect your baby from the dangers that could be present in and around your home.

Last updated on April 9th, 2020 at 06:51 am

Francine Wingard

I was always around kids since I was just a little girl, babysitting my siblings. When I turned 15 my parents allowed me to become a part-time nanny. Now I’m a full-time mom of 2 beautiful angels. If you’re as concerned about your baby’s safety as I am, consider Modern Baby Advice to be your new home.