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Choosing Safe Baby Products: Gates

Gates placed at the top of stairs or in doorways are used to keep toddlers away from hazardous areas of the home. Gates are meant to be used for children between 6 months and 2 years of age.

Before you look for a gate, measure the doorway or top of the stairs so you buy a gate that is wide enough to block the space.

If you're borrowing a gate, don't accept an old accordion-type gate. They're not safe because of the diamond-shaped openings with wide Vs at the top. These can trap a baby's head and cause choking.

What to look for:

  • Check the label for an ASTM/JPMA certification (American Society for Testing and Materials, and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association).
  • For a gate at the top of stairs, be sure to get a hardware-mounted gate that attaches to the door frame without any openings to trap fingers or necks.
  • Pressure-mounted and freestanding gates can be used in doorways between rooms or at the bottom of stairs. Keep in mind that they can fall over if a child pushes hard enough. Choose a gate with a straight top edge with either rigid bars or a tight mesh screen.
  • There should be no more than 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) between the floor and the gate bottom to keep a child from slipping underneath.
  • Rigid vertical slats or rods should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart, so that the child's head cannot be trapped between the slats.
  • Check for sharp edges and pieces that could cut or hurt a toddler's hands. If the gate is made from wood, check for splinters.
  • Don't buy gates with openings that a child could use for climbing.
  • The gate should be no less than three quarters of the child's height.


  • Keep large toys and other objects away from the gate to prevent kids from using them to climb over.
  • Gates that swing out should never be used at the top of stairways.
  • If your child can open a gate or climb over it, the gate should be taken down.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: January 2018
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