Babies and young toddlers love to climb, especially since their growing minds and bodies have no sense of impending danger. According to the International Agency for Child Safety, 40 percent of all fall-based injuries affect children younger than 4 years old. So whether your little one is just starting to crawl or she's already "cruising" and toddling, installing an effective baby gate at the bottom of every staircase now can prevent an unfortunate, and potentially dangerous, accident later.
Hardware-Mounted vs. Pressure-Mounted
Pressure-mounted baby gates attach to the walls on either side of the staircase much like a tension-set curtain rod, while hardware-mounted gates screw into the wall and require drilling. While pressure-mounted gates are certainly easier to install, they're also easier for your little one to dislodge by leaning, pulling or climbing on, according to the International Association of Child Safety. Given that you'll likely need the gate for at least a few years, it's worth doing the extra installation to have a sturdy, reliable gate that blocks the foot of the stairs.
Family Accessibility Considerations
Since the rest of your family still needs to use the stairs frequently, you want to choose a baby gate that's easy for your older children and adults to open, but difficult for a toddler or baby. You want to prevent your baby from climbing the stairs unattended -- not frustrate your 4- or 5-year-old. The handle latch should be sufficiently complex so that your toddler can't unlatch it after watching you do it a few times, nor should the gate spring open on its own if your baby or toddler grabs and rocks on the gate while standing.
Install your baby gate on the floor, not on the first step or after the first landing platform, as this could allow your baby to pull herself up and then fall backward, warns the International Association for Child Safety. Another alternative is to place the gate in a nearby doorway that limits access to the stairs. Keep in mind, however, that this second approach is effective only if the stairs are accessible through that one doorway.
A wrap-around gate forms a v-shape or square shape around the entire stairwell, making it an effective solution for formal staircases set apart from walls or wider steps at the bottom. For the sturdiest installation possible, the gate will need to mount to some stationary object, such as the side of the staircase or a wall a few feet away; otherwise, it's only a matter of time before your baby figures out how to knock over the gate and reach the stairs.