The infant who uses his feet only as chew toys today will turn into a toddling, curious baby seemingly overnight. Buying and installing safety gates isn't a task to put off until he's on the move. Nearly 8,000 children visit U.S. emergency rooms each day because of fall-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The right gates may keep your baby from being one of them.
Measure the width of every doorway for which a gate is required. Even if your home has only one main staircase, you may need to install several gates. Plan to install one at the top and bottom of each staircase as well as in the doorways of any rooms that you want to keep your baby out of (like the kitchen), or inside of (like a childproofed play room). Blocking off bathrooms is also wise.
What to Look For
You'll see two types of baby gates on the market: those that are installed with hardware anchoring them to walls and those that are pressure mounted. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises using only hardware-mounted gates at the tops of staircases. You may use pressure-mounted gates between rooms or at the bottom of stairs, but as your child gets stronger he may be able to push these gates over. Look for gates that have straight top edges and are made of either fine mesh or rigid vertical bars or slats, advises KidsHealth. In gates made of vertical pieces, the openings between bars should be no more than 2 3/8 inches. "Consumer Reports" suggests taking a few pressure-mounted gates with you on vacations.
What to Avoid
Accordion-style gates with large diamond- or V-shaped openings may not conform to current safety standards. Avoid any such gate that lacks a straight top bar. Any gate featuring horizontal slats or other openings that could be used as toeholds are unsafe once your little one learns to climb. Run your hands over any gate you consider to feel for sharp edges, loose parts or wooden splinters. Don't choose a gate that will fit only when expanded to its maximum width.
Installing a gate that requires hardware is fairly simple if you follow the manufacturer's instructions. A gate at the top of a staircase should be installed to open away from rather than toward the stairs. If a pressure-mounted gate has a bar on one side, place that side away from the space where your baby will roam. With any gate, allow no more than 2 inches of space between the floor and the bottom bar, advises KidsHealth.