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Ivy Jacobson
Associate Editor, The Knot

How to Make Sure Your Baby Gate Is Actually Safe

Baby gates can help keep baby safe—but improper use can be seriously dangerous. Here's what you can do to avoid accidents.

Baby safety gates are supposed to keep your little ones out of harm’s way, but a surprising study published in American Pediatrics in 2014 says baby gates actually send 2,000 children to the ER every year.

More than 60 percent of the children injured were younger than 2, and were most often injured from falls down stairs after a gate collapsed or when it was left open, leading to sprains, strains and traumatic brain injuries. Even though the injuries largely weren’t life-threatening, it may be time to re-evaluate the gear in your own home.

“Baby gates are essential safety devices for parents and caregivers, and they should continue to be used,” said Lara McKenzie, PhD, the study’s co-author and a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “It is important, however, to make sure you are using a gate that meets the voluntary safety standards and is right type of gate for where you are planning to use it.”

To ensure safety, hardware-mounted gates are sturdy and anchored to the walls with screws or brackets, which means they’re extra-secure and won’t budge if knocked into. For that reason, use this type of gate in places where an injury could happen, like at the top of the stairs or where floors are uneven.

Baby gates come in a variety of metal, wood and plastic, but metal ones are the strongest and should be your go-to choice for spots where you need extra protection (again, at the top of the stairs).

Also, make sure that whatever gate you choose has been certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (there should be a JPMA sticker on the package). This means the manufacturer has met the association’s voluntary safety standards.

McKenzie and her team studied the effect of baby gate injuries on children up to six-years-old.

Photo: Getty Images