Every year, 1,794 children in the United States are treated for baby gate-related injuries. It’s easy to see why. Baby gates aren’t optional: They’re necessary to ensure the safety of your home for your child. But because they have mobile parts and are treated as a challenge, they can quickly become unsafe if they aren’t designed properly.
As a conscientious parent, you know the importance of having a baby gate. But how do you choose a gate that won’t endanger your child more than not having one?
1. Choose the Right Baby Gate for Your Home
There are different styles of baby gate depending on where the gate will be. A gate that’s at the end of a hallway will likely be different than a gate at the end of a staircase. Think about where the gate will go in your home, whether there’s a height differential on either side (such as at the bottom of stairs), and whether there’s enough room to mount it.
Many baby gate injuries occur because the gate isn’t positioned properly for its purpose. A gate that’s positioned extremely inconveniently is also very likely to be left open. Before choosing a baby gate, measure the opening that the gate will go into, and make sure that the gate you select isn’t going to have any gaps that a child could fit into. In particular, make sure a small child can’t slide under the gate.
2. Upgrade Your Gates as Your Child Gets Older
As children get older, they become stronger and heavier. Often, a baby gate injury can occur because a baby gate intended for an infant is now holding back an older toddler. As your child grows, make sure that you select a stronger, taller gate — alternatively, start off with a larger gate if you know that your child is going to need one in your house for longer.
There are some homes where only an infant needs a gate, while there are others that need gates for progressively older children. Thinking ahead means that you’re not going to need to swap out your gates in a few months as your child becomes more ambitious.
Most gates will say what they’re intended for. A baby gate intended to hold in a sleeping infant is going to be of significantly different construction than one meant to hold a quizzical toddler.
3. Try to Get a Permanent-Mounted Gate
There are many reasons why parents may want a “pressure mounted” gate. Pressure mounted gates, or spring mounted gates, are held by tension. You just unscrew the holders and you’re done. It’s easy to install, and for parents who are renters, it may seem less likely to upset a landlord.
But permanent-mounted gates are almost always better, because they aren’t as likely to fall in. Pressure mounted gates may lose tension over time. Permanent mounted gates, when installed correctly, won’t yield to most adults.
Don’t be afraid to install a permanent gate. It usually only requires a screwdriver, and any holes can be patched and painted with ease.
4. Don’t Use Too Many Extensions
If you have a particularly broad hallway, it may be tempting to get a smaller gate with extensions. But each subsequent extension tends to weaken the actual gate, because the extensions themselves are weak points on the gate. If you’re gating off a larger area, it’s better to select the largest gate that you can reasonably find.
If you do need to use extensions, only use the amount that the manufacturer suggests. Usually this is only one on each side, before the strength of the gate is compromised. Extensions held on by tension are going to be flimsier than extensions that are held on with nuts and bolts. Don’t forget if the extension creates a “flex” point, it can also pinch!
5. Read Third-Party Reviews
Reading reviews on third-party sites and marketplaces is a good way to get a feel for a product. But don’t just rely on large marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon; the reviews are often fake. Instead, look for parenting blogs and other information online, and look up the Better Business Bureau to see whether the company is a reputable one.
Because people in general are likely to give a product either 1 or 5 stars, and because there are many fake reviews today, you don’t solely want to look at how highly rated a product is. Instead, read the reviews thoroughly and see if there are any trends. If you see a lot of comments about something being “flimsy,” it likely is!
6. Make Sure It’s JPMA Certified
JPMA is an optional certification that tells you that the manufacturer went through an extra step to make sure that its product is safe. This is the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association sticker. If you stick to products that are JPMA certified, you will know that it’s met specific standards that indicate that it is less likely to cause injury. While this doesn’t guarantee anything (you should still take a look at the gate and make sure it’s right for you), it’s still a great step towards safety. If something isn’t JPMA certified, you don’t know whether it’s met these safety standards.
7. Reduce the Amount of Footholds
If you look at a baby gate and think “I could climb that,” it’s not going to be a good gate. There are some gates that have mesh, or an accordian-style build. These are almost always unsafe, because a tenacious child is going to see it as a challenge.
There are some baby gates that are almost decorative in nature rather than being functional. Cloth or mesh baby gates, for instance, may be able to keep an infant in while the infant is being closely guarded, but the second someone walks away for a minute, the child is going to climb up the gate. Consider whether a child would be able to easily climb a gate, and whether you could trust them in it for more than a minute or two.
Finding the Right Baby Gate
Of course, baby gates are meant to keep children in under supervision, and many baby gate injuries occur when children are left unsupervised too long. Pairing a baby gate with a nanny cam and making sure someone is always available to watch your baby is a great way to reduce potential injury, as well.
When it comes to baby gates, “more expensive” isn’t always better, and the most highly reviewed options aren’t always the safest. Remember to be a skeptical consumer, check the Better Business Bureau, and really inspect the product that you’re purchasing. A few extra hours comparing baby gates could mean avoiding the emergency room!
Last updated on February 25th, 2021 at 12:01 pm