Apart from feeding, clothing, and comfort that any mom can provide for her baby, one important factor that should never be overlooked is the issue of safety.
To be honest, one of the creepiest things to hear as a mother is a news that your 6 months to 12-month-old baby fell off the stairs, or almost drowned in the pool or crawled out of the house into the street. You might brush it off and say, “It would never happen to me”, or “I have a nanny to keep watch over my baby”.
Fact is babies can be a handful, especially when you have so much to do and you get distracted while you or the nanny are keeping watch over them.
The question then becomes “How can I ensure my child’s safety while at home?”
A baby gate is your answer.
What Is A Baby Gate?
According to Wikipedia, a baby gate or child safety gate is a protective barrier designed to prevent babies and toddlers from moving to areas of the house where they might be unsafe, such as stairways and kitchens. They are typically constructed of metal, plastic and/or wood and can be expanded to fit in doorway widths. They may be either hardware or pressure mounted.
Apart from being overly active, kids get into everything and everywhere out of curiosity. They also want to follow you everywhere you go and this can be a bit overwhelming. Your babies could also need protecting from pets (that’s if you let them roam around in the house). They also need safety and protection during vacations and in places that cannot be termed home, or in the office (that is if your workplace lets you bring your kids to work).
These and many more are the reasons why you need a baby gate.
Structural Factors To Consider When Choosing A Baby Gate
Based on research by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association (JPMA), these are structural factors you must consider before purchasing a baby gate:
The Location You Would Want It To Be
In terms of location, such as the top of the stairs, or the entrance to the kitchen which might be quite dangerous for your toddler to play around in, you might consider buying the Hardware mounted gates.
Hardware Mounted Gates
These gates are really sturdy in nature. You are expected to screw the hardware into a stud in the wall or use anchors for the screws to make the gates stay put. They are best fitted in dangerous places of the house such as the top of the stairs, before the fireplace or the entrance of the work shade.
You could move them and reinstall, but they would definitely leave holes in your walls or woodworks. Ensure that you know where you want the gate before installing it. Also, removing the installations frequently would make it really loose and pose a risk to your baby’s safety if you decide to put it at the top of the stairs.
Installation tips for hardware mounted gates
If you have baseboards at doorways in your house, make sure you thoroughly go through the installation requirements before you buy them. This is to ensure that you are not forced to install the gates away from the stairway space.
Avoid creating a space larger than 3″ after the gate has been installed. Any space above 3″ can be hazardous such that your baby might get trapped.
Use a level to see if you have any bumps or slopes on your floors or walls. Armed with this information, consult your gate manufacturer to understand if you need to change your mode of installation. Never wing it, because it could pose a threat to your baby’s safety in the future.
If you live in a rented apartment, reach an agreement with your Landlord. Some house owners may not be happy with seeing damage on their walls, but careful explanation of your baby’s safety needs can help you both come to a comprise.
The Texture And Structure Of Walls In Your House
If you have woodwork walls, and you don’t want to damage the wall by using screws, the Pressure mounted gate would be your best option.
Pressure Mounted Gates
They may be sturdy in nature, but they are best used as temporary gates. They work best for doorways and hallways, but not the top of the stairs. If you choose the less expensive ones, you would have to slide open or remove the gate whenever you need to pass. The most expensive ones stay in place with a door within the gate for you to walk through. Another beautiful feature about the pressure mounted gates is that you can carry them while you travel and you have to cordon your baby off from certain areas in the hotel room or resort.
Installation tips for pressure mounted gates
Note that pressure mounted gates require flat surfaces across each other and cannot be mounted on an angle.
Do not mount on a hollow wall. The pressure pads could damage the walls when so much pressure is applied to it.
Some pressure mounted gates come with bars at the bottom which most parents don’t like because they could trip or stump their toes against it which can be painful. These bars are important because they create tension between two flat surfaces. The best way out is looking for gates with low bars.
Oh, and one more thing…
While using hardware mounted gate at the top of the stairs, you could compliment it with pressure mounted gates at the bottom.
The Length Of The Area You Need Cordoning Off From The Baby
Considering the length of the room or the area outdoor you want to be sealed off from your baby (for example the swimming pool area), the Extra Wide baby gate would be your best buy.
Our major focus, however, is on the extra wide baby gates.
Majority of baby gates are designed to cover 48 inches of space length. On rare occasions, however, the location for a baby gate may be wider. In this case, look for baby gates that allow you to purchase extenders to add to their width or find a baby gate that already comes with the extra width put in the package. These are known as extra wide baby gates. They could be swing, retractable, or just plain and can be configured as Hardware mounted gates or pressure mounted gates.
Retractable Extra Wide Baby Gates
They are usually hardware mounted gates that are mounted with brackets to door posts or posts at the head of the stairs. These brackets are nearly invisible, strong and durable.
When opening a retractable extra wide baby gate, it rolls into the hinge at the wall, almost the way sliding doors work. This feature makes it close to invisible. They are perfect for areas with high traffic in your house.
Some retractable extra wide baby gates need to be manually rewound, while some are easy and automated. You don’t have the cumbersome stress of pushing open jammed gates when walking through because they simply roll into the bracket in the wall. They are usually strong because they are made of light metal, simple and quick to install.
Swing Type Extra Wide Baby Gates
They are usually pressure-mounted gates and can be used for the top of the stairs. However, it is advisable to install it in such a way it doesn’t swing out towards the stairs, rather it should swing back away from the stairs. This is to prevent days when you might forget to lock the gate and your baby leans on the gate and maybe topples over.
The best spot for swing extra wide baby gates is actually the entrance of rooms or kitchens.
Plain Type Extra Wide Baby Gates
These types of gates have no door option, and they can be taken down easily. The fixture is temporary and uses tension mounting to stay in place. They could have wooden frames and cloth-like meshes in the middle. To cross over the barrier, you are required to step over it (good thing because they are usually 27-28 inches tall).
These extra wide baby gates are good when your little ones are around 6 months to 9 months of age. They could be taken out and washed when they get dirty. It is, however, not advisable to have such baby gates when there are dogs or cats because they can chew it open.
Other points to note when choosing extra wide baby gates include:
When looking for a gate, ensure that you take accurate measurements of the areas you want cordoning off, so that you can buy a gate that is wide enough to block the space.
For extra wide baby gates at the top of the stairs, it is advisable to get a hardware mounted gate that is firmly attached to the door frame without any openings to trap fingers or necks.
A spacing of not more than 1 to 2 inches should be left between the floor and the gate bottom. This is to prevent your baby from slipping out.
Do a thorough inspection of sharp edges and pieces that could injure a toddler’s hands. Especially if they are made of metal and wood.
Very importantly, ensure that the gate should not be less than three-quarters of your baby’s height.
The moment you notice that your little one can climb over a gate, take it down and replace with a higher one. Never stack two baby gates on top of each other because it could fall over your baby. If the extra wide baby gate was manufactured with this feature, then you could try it.
Some parents may decide to use dog gates as baby gates. This may not be advisable for ensuring your baby’s safety.
Never use accordion-style baby gates. They may look all sturdy and traditional but the gaps give an invitation to your little ones to improve their climbing skills. (sounds absurd, but you would be surprised at what goes on in the head of your little one). If you would like to use baby gates with horizontal bars, use the ones that are 2-3 inches apart. With such gates, they cannot climb them or get their heads stuck between the bars.
It is not advisable to use old baby gates. The texture and structure of these gates would have become too weak to really provide protection for your baby.
No matter how attractive a “do-it-yourself” baby gate sounds, never make yours. Manufacturers of these gates understand your child-safety needs and have put all these things into consideration during production. Unlike you who may be looking majorly at the aesthetic nature of the gate, without proper consideration of safety.
If you can afford the services of an expert in installing baby gates, please call them. It is not advisable to do installations you are not so sure of.
Considering the fact that babies can be hyperactive, do not drop large toys and other objects within your baby’s reach. This will stop him from using th use them as support to climb over.
Ensure you do not expose your extra wide baby gates to rainfall all the time. If they are metallic in nature, they are prone to get rusted and broken. This may become harmful to your baby later. If it is the wooden type, the wood may get soft and fall apart.
We won’t end this guide without telling you this. Do not overly depend on the baby gate(whether normal or extra wide baby gates) for your baby’s safety. If you have your hands full with chores and childcare, never be ashamed to get the services of a babysitter. After all, there can’t be excess safety when it comes to your little one. Right?
Phew! Was it such a long read? Well, you know what? You are the real MVP to have read this guide to this point. I trust that you have gathered enough information that will help you make the best decision while choosing your extra wide baby gates.
Remember, your child’s safety is priceless; that’s all that matters.