Best Baby Gates for Stairs and Doorways
When you have a baby, safety is top priority. So when it’s time to childproof your house, finding the best baby gate is a must. Baby gates are designed to section off spaces and rooms to prevent babies and toddlers from getting into danger zones, like staircases and kitchens. Studies show that more than 300,000 infants are treated for unintentional injuries in emergency departments each year—suffice to say, a baby gate is a consequential purchase.
Parents should start installing gates “as soon as baby starts crawling or scooting around, usually around 6 months,” says Bengt Lager, president of baby home safety company Qdos Safety. Frederick Ilarraza, co-founder of the child safety education resource Baby Bodyguards agrees, telling us to get started with baby gates, “as soon as the child is beginning to become mobile. You want to be ahead of the curve here, being preemptive rather than reactionary. Once kids become mobile they get very quick very fast.” Remember, children develop at different rates, so use your discretion when deciding what works best for your home.
Ready to shop the options? Here’s our picks for the best baby gates on the market, as well as some expert-backed advice on how to choose the right baby gate for your home.
How We Chose the Best Baby Gates
We get it—parenting requires a lot of gear, and it can be hard to find the best baby gate for your home. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. We do this by considering a list of criteria when sourcing baby gates, including ease of use, durability, value, installation options and, last but definitely not least, safety. This way you can count on getting the best bang for your buck, while also having a dependable product that will meet your and your child’s needs.
To decide which baby gates are the best options on the market, we leverage our familiarity with leading brands to make sure items are from reliable manufacturers. We read user reviews to get the low-down on how these gates work for families, and typically don’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. But we didn’t stop there—in May of 2023, we asked 300 parents from The Bump community to tell us about their favorite baby gates, and included some of their thoughts below. And of course, since many of us are also parents, we rely on our writers’ and editors’ experience using these products with their own families.
To make sure we’re highlighting products that are safe and effective, we spoke with two baby safety experts, and following their advice, only considered baby gates that are certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
Ready to give your home a safety makeover? Check out our picks of the best baby gates for stairs, fireplaces and more.
Little ones just love to explore the stairs, making it important for them to be safely barricaded off. Ilarraza tells us that Cardinal gates are “the choice of most child proofing professionals,” and it shows. There are certain features that help make baby gates work best for stairways, and this option has them all. It hard-mounts at the top or bottom of stairs and can be angled up to 30 degrees, helping ensure you hit a stud and get that extra security. An optional stop bracket prevents the gate from swinging open over a stairway, and the latch system is easily operated with one hand by adults. There’s also no trip bar, and it’s made from a lightweight but strong aluminum.
Height: 29.5″ | Width range: 27″ to 42.5″ | Weight: 10 lbs.
“It feels sturdy and safe” – Lisa, mother of one
- Tamper-proof latch system
- Can be installed at an angle
- Hardware mounted
Hundreds of parents rave about this retractable, mesh baby gate from Retract-A-Gate. It tucks away when you don’t need it, and lets you see your little one on the other side when it’s up. It can be used both indoors and outdoors, and the neutral colors blend seamlessly into any home decor. The mesh can withstand up to 200 pounds of push-pressure—making it just as strong as its metal and wooden counterparts. It’s also one of the few retractable baby gates that can truly be operated with one hand (perfect for when you’re carrying a baby or toddler in the other).
Height: 34″ | Width range: Up to 52″ | Weight: 4.2 lbs.
- Can be installed at any angle
- Suitable for indoor or outdoor use
- Accessories and hardware sold separately
Open concept homes become quite tricky when you have a baby on the move. Enter the Regalo Super Wide Baby Gate and Playard, which is perfect for every large open space in your home. It comes with eight 24-inch panels, and can close off an opening as wide as 16 feet. This extra-wide baby gate is also versatile, and can be configured as a standalone playpen or fireplace baby gate as well. The sturdy, all-metal frame will keep little ones in—and adults can easily get out thanks to the one-touch safety lock release lever.
Height: 28″ | Width range: Up to 192″ | Weight: 31 lbs.
- Modular panels
- Folds down for easy storage
- Durable steel construction
- Heaviest option on the list
High-traffic doorways require an easily operated but still secure baby gate—and we’re big fans of this option from Toddleroo. The 22-inch door swings in both directions and provides plenty of room to walk through. The auto-close feature makes sure the gate shuts behind you, no hands required. But when you need the doorway path to stay open, there’s a hold-open feature that kicks in when you open the door past 90 degrees. The glow-in-the-dark handle also makes this gate easy to spot in the dark, helping prevent any late-night tumbles.
Height: 30″ | Width range: 29.8″ to 40.5″ | Weight: 14.9 lbs.
- Gate automatically shuts behind you
- Built-in door stopper
- Glow-in-the-dark handle
Looking for an option that’s not plastic or metal? Look no further than this wooden baby gate from Regalo. The Regalo Heritage and Home Wooden Safety Gate features a sleek wooden and gray design that won’t be an eyesore. This wooden baby gate isn’t just aesthetically pleasing though: It works for stairways, hallways and doorways; offers secure hardware mounts that can be used on walls or banisters and fits openings up to 42 inches wide.
Height: 30″ | Width range: 23.5″ to 42″ | Weight: 10 lbs.
- Safe for top and bottom of stairs
- Stylish wooden accents
- Gate only opens one way
- Installation may be tricky
Mesh is a great option for baby gates, as it allows you a better view of your little one and provides a softer surface for any potential collisions. The benefits don’t stop there with this expandable mesh baby gate from Baby Delight. It comes in three different width ranges, it can be unfolded and set up in minutes (with no hardware or tools necessary) and it comes with a carry bag for when you need to move it to a different location. It’s a great option for both babies and families on the go.
Height: 34″ | Width range: 36″ to 60″ | Weight: 6 lbs.
- Expands up to five feet
- Portable and easy to install
A fireplace transforms from cozy to hazardous once you have children—making a fireplace baby gate an absolute necessity. Our favorite is the Qdos Construct-a-Safegate, which hard-mounts to the surrounding walls and features anti-skid floor pads to prevent any movement. It’s not only ideal for blocking off fireplaces, this baby gate also comes with two wide sections, a door and multiple panels to create a safe space anywhere you might need.
Height: 29.5″ | Width range: 35.4″ to 82.7″ | Weight: 19.7 lbs.
- Meets US and European safety standards
- Anti-skid silicone pads
- Variety of uses
Although a pressure-mounted baby gate is a no-go for stairs, it’s a great choice if you want to keep babies out of a room like an office or a kitchen without damaging your walls with drill holes. This one from Regalo allows each spindle rod mount to be adjusted independently (perfect for uneven walls or surfaces), and has a one-touch release safety lock for adults to pass through easily.
Height: 30″ | Width range: 35″ to 38.5″ | Weight: 10 lbs.
- Affordable price point
- No drilling necessary for installation
Whether you have lots of doorways to close off, or are simply looking for a more cost-effective option to keep your little one safe and secure, the Safety 1st baby gate is a great budget-friendly option. The magnetic latch system ensures the gate swings closed behind you and locks automatically. The gate is pressure-mounted and has a safety indicator that lets you know when it’s time to re-adjust for a secure fit. The best part? The under-$50 price tag.
Height: 28″ | Width range: 29″ to 38″ | Weight: 9.75 lbs.
“Great gate—never had a problem with it!” – Maria, mother of one
- Magnetic latch system
- Adjustable width
- Affordable price point
It’s important to consider where you’ll be using the baby gate before deciding on the mounting and pass-through style. If you’re looking for stair gates or have an uneven surface, a wall-mounted option is your best (and safest) bet. If you’re using the gate on a flat surface like a doorway, and want something easy to remove, a pressure-mounted baby gate will work well. Here’s a closer look at the differences.
- Hardware-mounted baby gates. Hardware-mounted baby gates are securely attached into the framing of the walls of your home. There’s a bracket that’s installed into either a doorframe or the frame behind the walls to secure the gate in place so it won’t fall over. Avoid screwing the baby-gate mount into the drywall or plaster alone, because that won’t guarantee stability. Statistics show every six minutes, a child in the US is treated for a stairs-related injury, so it makes sense to find the most secure options available. Hardware-mounted styles are recommended as the best baby gates for stairs, because when installed properly the risk of them toppling over is much lower than with pressure-mounted ones.
- Pressure-mounted baby gate. Pressure-mounted baby gates use an expandable spring system to lock the gate into place by squeezing it between two walls or other surfaces, creating pressure to hold it in place. There are usually rubber pieces on both sides that help secure the gate in place and protect your walls. If you’re using a pressure-mounted baby gate, keep Ilarraza’s advice in mind: “A pressure mounted gate should only be used in a doorway that separates areas on the same floor.” Even a top-notch pressure-mounted model isn’t recommended for staircases of any type because the gate could topple over if not secured properly. “Even though you may be putting this up for a newly crawling baby, your child will soon be a rambunctious toddler of 30+ pounds that will run straight into this thing on many occasions,” Ilarraza adds.
- Step-over versus walk-through. Walk-through gates, or baby gates that have a doorway or open-and-close mechanism, are preferred to gates that require you to step over them—since it removes any trip or fall hazard. Step-over gates can be a great option when traveling or needing a temporary solution; but, in most other situations, walk-through gates are better and safer.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Baby Gate
Baby gates are anything but child’s play. In fact, as you shop for the best baby gates, you’ll discover that there are several different variations—all with their own set of pros and cons. This can be enough to make any parent’s head spin. Before you make a purchase, here’s a breakdown of what to consider.
- Safety. Childproofing becomes pointless if the baby gate you’re using isn’t a safe product. And when it comes to safety, Lager and Ilarraza both told us the same thing: look for JPMA certification. “JPMA-certified gates take the ASTM standards required in the US for stair gates one step further,” Ilarraza explains. Lager also cautions shoppers to confirm that they’re buying the right product: “make sure it’s actually a baby gate, and not a pet gate. While they may look very similar, products marketed as pet gates have no safety standards.” And as with all baby products, make sure to keep an eye out for any recalls.
- Height. Those with taller toddlers will want to look out for extra-tall baby gates, which can have heights of up to 36 inches for extra security.
- Material. Baby gates come in a variety of materials, from metal to mesh to wood. Each has its own benefits, depending on your needs. Metal is easiest to clean, while mesh allows for a clear view of your little one on the other side. Wood is both sturdy and aesthetically pleasing.
- Location. Think about where you’ll be placing the baby gate in your home, as that will also affect the type of product you select. If a gate is placed in a high-traffic area, look for a gate with a doorway pass-through; places you want to remain blocked off (like a fireplace) can have a more closed-off format. As Ilarraza cautioned, baby gates being used at the bottom or top of stairs must be hard-mounted for safety, while those closing off hallways or doorways can be pressure-mounted. Lager also warns: “All pressure mounted baby gates have a crossbar at the bottom that can easily become a trip hazard. Think about opening the gate and then walking down the stairs while carrying your baby. If your foot gets caught on the cross bar, you and your baby could fall down the stairs.”
- Portability. If you need a gate to travel with or take on the go to a vacation home or relative’s house, look for a pressure-mounted baby gate that folds or collapses to make for easier transport.
- Aesthetics. Baby gates don’t need to be an eyesore in your home! There are several chic and stylish options, ranging from barn door styles to ultra modern designs. As Lager says, “With all JPMA certified gates being safe and quite simple to operate, it mostly comes down to design and personal taste.”
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.