Do Baby Gates Expire? For How Long Should I Use One?

baby gate

The issue of your child’s safety is paramount, and baby gates are one of the safety features that you can’t do without. Baby gates are designed to prevent your baby from falling down the stairs. But do baby gates expire? 

You should choose a baby gate that meets the current safety standards. This article will look at the query from a number of different angles, and help you make the best choice. Although baby gates may last for years, it’s important to replace them when your child reaches a certain age.  

Do baby gates expire?

Baby gates don’t expire. But, you need to look at the current JPMA standards for safety gates, and only purchase gates that suit the most recent regulations. Retractable baby gates and swinging ones are sturdy structures and don’t have expiry dates. However, it’s advisable to follow the most recent guidelines, because of problems with previous safety gates.

For instance, the latest JPMA regulations state that, as of 6 July 2021, all baby gates have to withstand 30 pounds of force before dislodging. This means that all pressure-mounted gates have had to be redesigned, and it’s best to buy pressure-mounted gates that comply with this law. The reason relates to safety problems that might occur when pressure-mounted gates dislodge and cause accidents in the home. 

For how long can you use a baby gate with your child?

The question of how long to use a baby gate depends on two key issues:

  • the height of your child
  • the age of your child

In general, it’s wise to use baby gates between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Babies begin rolling around this time and crawling, and that’s when you need the gates up. Beyond this, a child should be able to manage stairs effectively. If your child has a younger sibling, of course, the gates need to remain up and teach your toddler to protect their younger brother or sister. 

The issue is children older than 2 years will try to climb over the gate, a dangerous thing at any stage, or a child who has worked out how to open the gate. In these situations, it’s unsafe for the child to have the gate up, and best to take it down before accidents happen.  

The other guideline which might apply to some children is: keep the gates up until the chin of the child fits over the top of the gate. This is an especially good rule of thumb when you have a child who is tall for their age. This is particularly important for gates at either end of the stairs. 

You need to make the call if you have a child who has a disability. In this case, you’ll need to keep the safety gates up for quite a few years longer. 

For the situations where you keep the safety gates up, particularly near stairs, have a professional check them for wear and tear every now and then. 

Baby gate safety 101

It’s important to talk about baby gate safety in order to keep both you and your child free from harm. Baby gates are essential, but can cause more damage if used or installed incorrectly. 

Get the Correct Baby Gate for the Job

Baby gates have different functions. You have pressure-mounted gates and hardware-mounted gates. You also have gates with a trip bar at the bottom, and those without. 

Furthermore, you have material gates, steel gates, and wooden gates. You never place a pressure-mounted gate at the top of the stairs. This is because they can be pushed out of the way by your child, even with the newly-required screw-ins. 

Mountings of Gates

Pressure-mounted gates are now required to have hardware mountings, as described above. The reason is that otherwise babies could just push them out of the way. 

Hardware-mounted gates mean that you screw plastic plugs into the wall. However, it’s advisable not to use the plugs that come with the gate, because the support may be too flimsy. The plugs can certainly withstand downward pressure but aren’t designed to hold up as the gates swing open. They could come loose. 

Instead, you could use larger screws to screw the gate into the wall, or into solid wood. The solid wood frame would have to be attached to the wall and the post of the stairs using a toggle bolt.  

Further, material gates must be mounted a few inches away from the top of the stairs so the baby can’t slip under them. 

The Trip Bar

The next item is the trip bar. This could cause serious harm, and even traumatic brain injury to you or your child if placed in a doorway or the top of the stairs. It’s best to have no trip bars on gates except perhaps at the bottom of the stairs where they’re hidden by the last stair. 

Installing

You may certainly read the manufacturer’s instructions and install the gate yourself. Here’s a short exemplary video about how to install a pressure-mount baby gate: 

However, for peace of mind, get a professional to do it for you. This will ensure that your gates are firmly mounted to the walls, and won’t come off. 

A Couple of ‘Don’ts

  • Don’t hang the gate too high off the ground, where the baby could slip underneath.
  • Don’t only put them at the top of the stairs. You need one at the bottom as well, to prevent the baby trying to climb up and falling. 

Buying used baby gates

When buying used baby gates, you need to check:

  • that the hinges are working
  • that there is no rust or sign or wear and tear
  • that it’s clean and hygienic
  • that all the safety features are present

How to maintain a baby gate so it lasts long

You also need to maintain your baby gate:

  • Oil the hinges and screws every 6 months.
  • Clean the gate with a damp cloth and mild soap once a week. 

How to store a baby gate properly for a next baby

It’s very simple to store a baby gate for use with your next child:

  • Take the screws out of the wall, and place in a plastic tub.
  • Place both the gate and little tub in plastic, and wrap tightly and keep them sealed.
  • Store in a place away from moisture and dirt.

Conclusion

When it comes to safety, never skimp. Always get the best quality baby gate, and use gates with the most sturdy installation possible, especially near stairs. Most of all, train your child how to be safe, and navigate obstacles to prepare them for the removal of the gates. 

For further information on baby-proofing your home, I wrote also about baby-proofing your plants or your dog’s water bowl.

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