Sleepless nights, colic, gas, and teething - every parent of a newborn faces at least one of these baby blues. Difficult as those things may all be nothing compares to the anxiety and worry that can plague a parent of a mobile baby. Suddenly he's crawling across the room, pulling himself up, opening cabinets … contemplating the stairs? If you wait until Jr. is already on the go to identify the safety hazards in your home, you're just asking for trouble. If your little one is taking himself places, it's time to baby proof.
If possible, take inventory of possible dangers in your household before the baby is capable of discovering them. Things like drawer and door locks, outlet covers, guard rails, and anti-tip kits are all smart things to look into. One of the most useful child safety products you'll own is a baby gate. Designed to keep children between 6 and 24 months of age away from potential dangers, baby gates are a smart investment in your home. Use one to keep your little one out of the kitchen when you've got hot dishes on the stove. Or, it could keep a toddler confined to their room after a nap so they're not wandering around the house unbeknownst to you.
There are two basic types of baby gates, each classified by their method of installation: hardware mounted (also known as "permanent") and pressure mounted. Each category has gates intended for specific uses like stairways, doorways, wide openings or play yards. Baby gates are constructed of plastic, wood, and metal, giving you a choice in appearance, weight, and sustainability.
Hardware Mounted Baby Gates
If there's an area in your home you know you'll always want to keep baby away from, a hardware mounted baby gate could be your best bet. A hardware mounted, or permanent gate, is attached to the wall with hardware creating a more permanent safety structure. This may require drilling holes in a door frame or wall studs and attaching the gate with brackets and screws. When properly mounted and installed, these are the most secure baby gates. In fact, hardware-mounted gates are the only safe choice for use at the top of the stairs. Pressure mounted options can create a false sense of security and can be popped out of place if a baby were to push hard enough.
If you do install a permanent gate at the top of your stairs, it's important to set it up to swing in the safest direction. Most gates for stairs will only swing one way, though the direction is usually up to you. A gate at the top of the stairs should swing away from the stairs (not over them) for maximum safety. If you're going to get tripped up on a stairway, best to do it while you're still in the hallway or on the landing rather than already on the stairs. There are doorway styles that come ready for installation with hardware or they may be pressure mounted. You'll usually have a choice of plastic, wood and metal baby gates. Also, it's possible to get hardware-mounted models that can be removed from their brackets when you want the area open.
Pressure Mounted Baby Gates
Putting a pressure mounted gate in place is quick and easy, making it the preferred choice of many parents. Simply open the gate where you plan to use it and adjust it to fit snuggly in the spot. Then, a pressure bar or other type of locking mechanism is used to firmly wedge it into place. The gate shouldn't easily budge if you've done it correctly. A pressure-mounted gate, while effective, should only be used in less hazardous locations, such as between rooms. Don't use a pressure mounted model in places where falling is a concern, such as the tops of stairs.
Pressure mounted options include all kinds of styles like extra tall and hands free. Swinging gates also are available in pressure mounted designs. Plus, these gates are available in all styles and materials. A wooden gate might work well near the living room while a plastic one might be more practical in the kitchen.
Play Yard Gates and Playpens
Sometimes keeping baby out of specific room just isn't enough. Sometimes you need to corral him to one safe place where you know he can't get into trouble. That's where the playpen or play yard gate comes in. Use one of these to contain baby in one corner of a room, or wrap the playpen full-circle around him and place him in the middle of the room where he can't reach anything or hurt himself. Perfect for letting baby get fresh air and sun while you weed the garden, or for giving him a safe play spot while you run the vacuum. Most gates come with interlocking panels for easy setup or tear down. Playpens and play yard gate models are constructed of plastic, wood or metal and can be used indoors or outdoors.
Extra Info About Baby Gates
When selecting a gate, please note that in order to be effective in discouraging a child from climbing over, it should be at least three quarters of the child's height. Once your child is over 36 inches tall and weighs more than 30 lbs., a baby gate is not likely to be effective or safe. Another thing to look out for is latch styles. Some gates have a dual-action latch that an adult can open single handedly. Other styles feature a squeezing mechanism while some have a pressure release arm that can generally be lifted with one hand by an adult.
There are lots of choices in baby gates from the mounting style, to the material, to the height, to the latch. Whatever choice you make, just remember that the best choice is the one that's safest for your baby.