Baby gates are supposed to protect babies from falling down stairs and getting into mischief—but a new study suggests that this babyproofing staple may actually be injuring kids. A new study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that nearly 1,800 babies hit the hospital each year due to gate-related injuries, including falls downstairs and head injuries, and that the number of injuries has quadrupled over that time. "We looked at emergency department visits between 1990 and 2010, and found that the incidence of baby gate-related injuries nearly quadrupled," said Lara McKenzie, PhD, lead author of the study and principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Despite the voluntary standards and the recalls that we've seen for gates, we're still seeing a really significant increase in the number of injuries related to them."
Of course, the fact that the number of injuries increased may have something to do with the wider use of baby gates—I know that gates weren't as ubiquitous in the homes where I babysat two decades ago as they were in my house, and even when gates were used in the past, they weren't put both at both the bottom and the top of a staircase, for instance.
The study's lead author, Lara McKenzie, does not suggest skipping the gates, but ensuring that you follow safe practices. For instance, the pressure-mounted gates should only be used at the bottom of the staircase—at the top of the stairs, you need one that's bolted into the wall to prevent the gate (and your baby) from falling down the stairs if your son or daughter suddenly decides to push hard against the gate. (That's a very common cause of baby-gate injury!)
Tell us: Was your son or daughter injured by a baby gate? How many baby gates do you have around the house?
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