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The lowdown on safety gates
Whether little ones are walking or crawling, they’re raring to go – including where they shouldn't. Enter the safety gate, a physical barrier that keeps your child within a safe zone in your home and away from dangerous spots like staircases or fireplaces.
You have three options:
Hardware-mounted gates attach to surrounding walls or doorframes with screws. They usually take longer to set up than pressure-mounted gates and may even cost more, but they're sturdier and are the only safe option at the top of staircases (see important safety notes, below).
Pressure-mounted gates rely on pressure to stay in place. They’re a great fit for doorways.
Free-standing gates are good when you want to keep your child in a small, defined space, such as a living room floor or patch of grass.
For more information, see our buying guide to childproofing products.
See which baby gates parents liked best in BabyCenter’s Moms’ Picks awards or browse dozens of baby safety gates.
What to look for when buying
Easy access: Most hardware-mounted gates swing open, but some pressure-mounted gates don't (usually the basic models). If you need to move a gate a dozen times a day, you might be tempted to ditch it altogether.
Slats no more than 3 inches apart: If the gate has vertical slats, Consumer Reports recommends that they be no more than 3 inches apart. A child's head could get trapped in a larger gap, leading to strangulation.
Fit: Most gates will block an average doorway. If you have a larger opening or area to protect, get a gate that stretches farther or has interlocking sections to encircle a bigger hazard.
Safety standards: If the baby gate you're considering doesn't have a Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association certification seal on the packaging, keep shopping. Only models with this seal are guaranteed to meet voluntary safety standards for strength of materials, security of the latch, size of the bar or slat openings, and more. Don't rely on the manufacturer's name alone, because a company might not certify every product.
Important safety notes
- Using pressure-mounted gates is not recommended at the top of stairs – they can give way under pressure (such as a child throwing his body against it). At the the tops of stairs, use hardware-mounted gates only.
- Don't use old-fashioned accordion-style gates that open to form large diamond-shaped gaps. A child's head can get stuck in these spaces, creating a potentially deadly situation. Recent models have a horizontal rail or filler bar across the top, but Consumer Reports still does not recommend them.
- Don’t use gates containing areas that can be used as footholds for a child determined to climb over.
- Safety gates have been recalled in recent years for giving way too easily. Check product recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure your gates haven’t been the target of a recall.
What it's going to cost you
Prices for safety gates vary widely depending on quality and size. Hardware-mounted gates range from $30 to $140, pressure-mounted gates from $15 to $120, and free-standing gates from $65 to $190.
Download our illustrated guide to safety gates