When your little one is on the move, a baby gate will be one of the most useful pieces of nursery kit you’ll buy. It can stop her from accessing places you don’t want her to go, such as the stairs or the kitchen, and keep her from wandering off where your eyes can’t follow.
There’s a wealth of products on the market, here’s how to choose the best one for you.
How to choose the perfect baby gate
First up, you need to consider the place you’re guarding. You won’t want anything with a step-over bar at the top of the stairs, but they could work fine at the bottom. Is there space for a door to swing open and shut in the space? If not, a retractable gate could be the answer. And you’ll definitely need a gate that you can open and shut with one hand – trust us on this.
How often will you use a baby gate?
If your space needs a baby gate, you’ll use it every day.
How much money should I spend on a baby gate?
A simple baby gate can cost less than £20 but ones for unusual spaces can cost up to £100.
Are baby gates safe?
As with everything in life, you’ll need to apply some basic common sense - so no step-over bars at the top of the stairs. And the gate will only work if you actually remember to close it. Hey, nothing can be taken for granted after six months of sleep deprivation.
Stair gate safety advice
According to RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), "every year there are more than 42,000 Accident and Emergency attendances by the under five age group resulting from accidental falls on stairs."
In their research into 'Can The Home Ever Be Safe?' - a publication that looked into the need to improve safety in the built environment of homes and gardens - the Society wrote: "RoSPA considers the provision of reinforcement of the wall substructure to ensure the safe fixing of European Standard stair gates should be included in the specification of all new and refurbished homes."
We spoke to Selina Russell, from safety products brand Fred UK, about the importance of stair gates; she said:
"Stairways, kitchens, bathrooms, fire hearths to name but a few, are areas of the home that pose potential risks for older babies finding their feet and confident toddlers on the move.
"It is important that any access to open stairways and rooms in the home that could be hazardous to young children if left alone, are restricted by installing safety gates. As infants have an innate curiosity and tend to feel the need to explore their surroundings, stair gates enable you to restrict little ones to safe areas in the home."
We also spoke to home safety expert Roger Cheetham, from Clippasafe, in one of our Safety Q&A sessions. Here's one important question he answered about stair gates:
Q: "My little girl is fascinated by our stairs. We have stairgates but I'm not sure when and how to teach her how to go up and down safely - any tips?"
A: "In comparison to an adult, each stair is a huge step for a small child. When you child is tall enough to manage each step without crawling, take them up and down the stairs whilst holding their hand on the opposite side to the stair rail, whilst they hold the hand rail themselves with their other hand. Ensure that they go up/down one step at a time, and slowly. Make sure that you can grap the handrail yourself if one or both of you become unstable."
The best baby gates to buy
We've hand-picked our favourite baby gates on the market here:
This simple gate opens in either direction. There are no bars or footplates to trip over, and it screws into the walls.
Any downsides? It’s reportedly quite difficult to assemble.
If you have a wide opening between rooms, this could be the perfect gate for you. It fits from 63.5cm to a whopping 102cm. It has no bar at the bottom, which means it could go at the top of the stairs, and our testers reported that it’s easy to open with one hand.
Any downsides? It screws into the wall so you’ll have a bit of DIY to do when it comes down.
Tested by mum Louise Carroll for the M&B Awards 2016: "I feel that this Lindam extending safety gate is good value for money. It is essential for those awkward spaces in a home where a standard size gate will not fit. The fact that this gate has no bar at the bottom is brilliant as my three year old is constantly tripping over these on standard gates. Very easy for parents to open but I would say near impossible for an inquisitive clever toddler which is perfect."
Read our full review of the Lindam Push To Shut here
If you like to make a clear distinction between adult time and baby time, or prefer not to battle with a baby gate during late night loo trips, this could be the one for you. The retractable baby gate folds back and is unobtrusive when not in use.
Any downsides? Our testers found it fiddly to close with one hand.
Tested by Vicky Daly, 34, from Cheshire, mum to Finn. She said: "Perfect for the most high-traffic spot in the home. A drill is required but it’s easily installed. It’s easy and quiet to operate, and there’s no trip hazard."
Read our full review of the Baby Dan Guard Me here
This safety gate is sturdy, looks good and can be adjusted to fit doorways and staircases from 69-106.5cm wide. You can choose the direction the gate opens in and there’s no bottom bar to potentially trip over. Plus, it’s easy to use with one hand, ideal if you’re holding your baby.
Any downsides? It’s quite tricky to assemble.
If you’ve got a particularly adventurous toddler, this model’s extra height makes it harder to climb over than standard ones. The opening mechanism is higher too, so you don't have to bend down so far which is better for your back.
Any downsides? It’s one of the more expensive models.
This is an elegantly designed safety gate that has no bar at the bottom. When it’s not in use, the gate rolls up on to a simple spindle, which attaches to a wall or banister. A red warning button pops up if you leave the gate unlocked.
Any downsides? Our testers reported that it’s noisy when retracting – not ideal when carrying a sleeping baby to bed.
Tested by Vicky Daly, 34, from Cheshire, mum to Finn. She said: "The most visually-appealing gate tested, but it’s so noisy when retracting – not very useful when carrying a sleeping baby to bed."
Read our full review of the Lascal Kiddyguard Assure here
This portable Lindam stair gate is ideal if you stay away from home with your baby or toddler and need to block off a doorway or staircase. It folds up into a carry bag.
Any downsides? It needs to be taken down and put up again every time you walk through which means it’s only suited to occasional use.