Updated: May 9, 2015
Baby Gate Reviews:When it comes to a babies safety, stairs are perhaps the biggest concern of parents besides something like a pool in the yard. Once an infant can start crawling (as early as 4 months), they are on the move and often parents will lose sight of the child for an instant when something bad can happen. Inside of our house, it's fairly easy to baby proof the electrical outlets, the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, and removing the coffee tables with sharp corners. We live in a 2 story house and did not baby proof our stairs. My wife and I both work out of the house and figured one of us would always be with our daughter at all times. Baby gates come in a variety of designs and many are more complicated than they need to be. We did look into getting a baby gate but decided we would be better off relying on ourselves to watch our child. We had heard stories of one parent thinking the other one had closed the baby gate when in fact they had not and the baby fell down a few stairs. Our daughter is now 7 and never did fall down our stairs as we were able to keep a close eye on her at all times.
The most basic baby gates are the ones that simply swing open like a gate in your garden. They are easy to install on one side of the stairs and they usually just latch on the other side once they are fully closed. The retractable baby gates come in a few different designs, but the idea behind them is that the gate retracts on itself and therefore doesn't "swing" open or shut. The problem with these is that little infants fingers or body parts can get caught in the gate when it is closing (retracting). Keep in mind that with stairs, you will need a gate at the top and the bottom since you never know where you will be with your child in the house and you want to be safe. Some families also choose to get a hearth gate that goes in front of the fireplace for extra safety. The top makers of baby gates are Kidco, Evenflo, The First Years, Cardinal, Dream Baby, and Safety 1st. Some are extra tall or extra wide to fit all different types of doorways and staircases in your house. Many are made with hard plastic materials, although the wooden baby gates is what most reviewers preferred. Pricing ranges from $25 to $100 depending on design, material, and size. There are pressured mounted gates which are easier to install than the hardware mounted ones, although the pressured mounted gates are inconvenient in many situations. The pressure mounted gates are designed so that they expand in the opening (doorway, stairs, etc.) for a secure fit. The problem is that you must remove the gate each time you want to enter or leave the room and it can be a hassle. In reviews we read online, many parents confess to just stepping over (or climbing) the gate and thus create a child who wants to try the same thing. The hardware mounted baby gates are a little tougher to install, but nothing more than some brackets and screws that attach to the wall or banisters. Since they tend to swing open just like a door, it's easy to get in and out if you know how to unlatch them (most are completely safe and child proof). If you are going to use pressure mounted baby gates, safety experts say you should NEVER use them at the top of stairs since there is always the chance that they will give way when a child leans into them. Another thing, don't think that because you have a child safety gate installed that you never need to check on your child. Some kids are creative and may try climbing over the gate or put something in front of the gate to reach higher up. Babygates.com has an excellent "gate wizard" where you can enter in things like opening size, type of mounting, material, and gate placement, and they give you a list of baby gates that match your criteria. You can also search by brand or price if you want. One of the top rated and best selling baby gates on Amazon.com is the The First Years Hands Free Gate which swings open in both directions and has a foot pedal as a means to open it. We searched on Consumer Reports to find reviews on child safety gates in the house, but couldn't find any articles that were recent. We did find some outstanding personal reviews for baby safety gates on the Berkeley Parents Network online HERE. The reviews aren't all current, but they give you some excellent feedback on the pros and cons of each style of baby gates. You can browse their top selling baby safety gates here.