Falling from an upper level can occur even when your baby is safely behind a gate at the top of the stairs. You also have to consider the spacing between the spokes in the banister, also known as balusters, when it comes to safety. For example, it is possible that a small child could fall or become entrapped in a 4-inch space between balusters, according to the International Association for Child Safety. Baby proofing the top of the banister isn't difficult, but you should pay attention to the details of your specific banister for the most effective solution.
Install a baby gate at the top of the stairs. While, this won't protect your baby against slipping through the balusters, it's a necessary first step to block the most accessible path down the stairs. Choose a gate that you secure by screwing it into the walls rather than one that's tension-set, as these are less reliable because eager cruisers and climbers might push them over.
Install a banister guard or shield on the inside the banister. This flat piece of clear plastic prevents babies from using the balusters to aid in cruising or climbing. It also protects small heads, arms and legs from getting stuck. To decrease risk of injury, the International Association of Child Safety recommends that parents consider covering balusters that are more than 3-inches apart with a banister guard or shield for children ages 6 to 24 months and covering balusters more than 3 1/2-inches apart for older children.
Install banister guards or shields to cover the entire banister perimeter. If your banister runs 7 feet at the top of the staircase, you should use as many banister shields as necessary to cover all 7 feet. Most banister shields span 30 inches or more wide, which means you'll need to buy several to fit the entire length. Curious hands and feet will quickly find the openings in the shield unless you cover the entire banister.
Install the banister shields or guards before your baby starts trying to climb or cruise along the balusters. He might be less likely to tamper with the shield if he doesn't realize what he can do with the balusters.
Even with plenty of safety guards and precautions, you still should never let your baby play on or around the banister or stairs. Snaps break, dogs chew clips -- and accidents happen quickly.