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.

Parents shouldn't use old accordion-type gates, which open to form diamond-shaped patterns with wide V's at the top. These can trap a baby's head and have resulted in strangulation deaths.

What to look for:

  • Check to make sure the gate has an ASTM/JPMA certification (American Society for Testing and Materials, and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association).
  • Look for a hardware-mounted gate that attaches to the door frame without any openings to trap fingers or necks.
  • 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 prevent a child from slipping underneath.
  • Nonflexible vertical slats or rods should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart.
  • Check for sharp edges and protrusions that could hurt a toddler's hands.
  • Avoid gates with structures that could give a child a foothold for climbing.
  • The gate should be no less than three quarters of the child's height).


  • Keep large toys away from the gate to prevent kids from using them to climb over.
  • Pressure-mounted gates should not be used between rooms of different levels or at the top of stairs; kids can dislodge them and take a tumble. Remember to place the pressure bar away from the child.
  • Gates that swing out should never be used at the top of stairways.
  • Discontinue using the gate when the child is about 2 years old.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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