Are Baby Gates Necessary?
Whether you need to install a baby gate in your home or not is one of the most frequently asked questions, especially by novice parents. And the straightforward answer to that query is yes you baby gates as a home safety precaution to protect your child from injuries related to stairs, bathrooms, kitchen, and more. Child safety is paramount in parenting.
Take for instance, how many times do you climb stairs every day in both public places and homes? It is part of our daily life, right? But did you know they are among the 10 most common causes of injuries in tots and small kids?
According to an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), over 900,000 kids under 5 years old were treated in ERs (emergency rooms) for stair-related injuries between 1999 and 2008. This report was given by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus. If we can estimate this properly, at least 1 young child comes to the ER with a stair-related injury every six minutes. Unbelievable but true!
As a parent or caregiver, therefore, you need to make sure that kids are unhurt while going down or upstairs. To my surprise, I also learned that our babies below the age of 1 are not always safe in our arms as we walk the stairs either. The research also found that 25% of injuries at that age happen as we carry them downstairs.
How Long Do I Need Baby Gates?
You can use baby gates for as long as you think your baby is safe using them but you definitely need baby gates for at least 18 months from when your baby is 6 months to when they reach toddlerhood at 24 months. You can use it longer than 2 years if you so wish but most kids at age 2 have a basic idea of the dangers around your home.
What makes an ideal baby gate?
Now that you are convinced about the importance of baby gates, especially when you have an active little angel at home, it is imperative that you keep them away from potential dangers. Here are a few tips on picking a baby gate:
- Check the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certified sticker to ensure they meet the ASTM International voluntary standards of safety.
- Pay attention to the openings such as the bottom spacing, gate height (22+ inches) and the sturdiness of top rails, framing components, slats, upper-edge outline, integrity, and latching mechanism.
When choosing an ideal baby gate, stay away from accordion-style gates that have no top filler bar or those with tempting footholds such as horizontal slats. If you opt for one with mesh panels, make sure they are finely weaved so your baby feet or fingers can’t fit for a climb. I would also recommend that you buy a portable one so you can use it in different places in the house. Read more on the best portable baby gates here.
Where should I put a baby gate?
You have picked the right baby gate with a good style, yes, but it can pose more danger to your toddler or small child if installed in the wrong place. As I always tell parents, you should install the gate as directed by the manufacturer. Specific areas that you should put a baby gate at home include the top & bottom of the stairs, laundry area, kitchen, office, pantry, fireplace, hallway, porch, and a room with large objects. Each of these spots in your home that poses a risk of injury to your kid has a specific type of baby gate. For instance, hardware-mounted gates are best placed at the top and bottom of the stairs, super-wide gates for fireplaces, and retractable ones for pantries.
What can I use instead of a baby gate?
Baby safety is crucial and you might be asking whether there is an alternative to a baby gate. Yes, there is one, the Stair Barrier that is used to block the bottom of the stairs without the need to drill. It comes in two sizes (36” – 42” wide & 42” – 52” wide) and a variety of colors to match your home décor.
What age do you take baby gates down?
In my opinion, you should take down the baby gates after your child’s 2nd birthday or when you see their chin is at the top of the gate. Teach them about safety by discouraging them from carrying toys and other things down the stairs. Cutting the number of kids visiting the ER with these injuries begins with you.
Mary Stephens is our infant development and baby fun activities specialist here at Motherhood HQ. She has over 10 years of experience dealing with kids, previously as a K3 teacher and now as a K9-12 teacher specializing in physical education and Social Studies. She is certified to teach in New York and Massachusetts and when not teaching trampoline jump tricks or giving toddler safety guides, she enjoys writing and providing helpful guides to parents on baby fun activities from infancy to toddlerhood. Mary is also an independent consultant providing parents with fun activities at home and appropriate toys and baby gear for infants and toddler development. She can be reached at her email, mary.s(at)motherhoodhq.com.