This is the first installment in a new, in-depth series about baby wearing, in which we will discuss different types of carriers and options, watch some silly videos, swap shopping tips, compare and contrast different brands, chat about safe practices, and probably review a few things just for kicks. If you’re new to baby wearing, I strongly recommend starting here: The World Beyond Moby.
Today, we’re going to talk Mei Tais. And right out of the gate, how the heck do you pronounce mei tai? It’s MAY – tie. I made you this hand dandy graphic that will show you how Fave remembers to say mei tai the right way.
Yeah. You’re welcome.
I love me a mei tai. They are simple to use, quick to get on and off, light/squishable/portable, completely adjustable to fit a variety of sizes – grown ups and babies, and AWESOME for quick and sturdy high-back carries.
When your baby is a little older and ready to be carried on your back, you have a few options. Ergobaby, the most widely-known back-carry friendly carrier, is designed to do a low back carry, one that lands your baby’s face squarely between your shoulder blades. Which is fine, but if your kid is anything like mine, he or she will want to see over your shoulder and keep tabs on what is going on. There are great ways to accomplish this, and one of them is definitely the mei tai.
But let’s back up. What is a mei tai? The good folks at Babyhawk have this to say:
“The modern Mei Tai is borrowed from the ancient Chinese method of babywearing. Traditionally a large square or rectangular piece of cloth, the Mei Tai was secured by tying its four corners together. Today’s Mei Tai come in a variety of colors and patterns, offering on-the-go families an excellent, comfortable, and stylish solution for carrying babies and toddlers. Mei Tai offer caregivers three positions for babywearing (front, back, and hip) and can be tied for a custom fit.”
Essentially, a mei tai is a squarish piece of dense fabric with four long straps extending from each corner. You may quote me on that elegant description.
Options within the mei tai world include size of the body panel (small for newborns, larger for toddlers and kids), shape of body panel (perfectly squared, rounded, hourglass), type of straps (padded, padded to wrap, or wrap straps), waistband styles (traditional no-waist worn apron style or with a waistband, which can be padded or un-padded, depending on preference), and hoods (either with or without, and don’t get me started on hood styles). You can also find mei tais with extra long straps for tall or plus-sized folks, or those wearing larger babies.
I think the mei tai discussion breaks down nicely into two categories: for the mei tai curious and the mei tai crazy.
For the mei tai curious:
Try a mei tai at a babywearing meet-up or class. Check Facebook for baby wearing groups near you!
Watch some YouTube videos and try it out for awhile. Decide if you might be mei tai crazy!
For the mei tai crazy:
Delve into the world of wrap conversions or tablecloth DIY mei tais. You can join The Babywearing Swap to look for wrap conversions for sale (beautiful, but will run you anywhere from $150-$800, fair warning), or check out Babywearing DIY Advice and Support if you are crafty and think you might like to make your own. There, you will find a list of great tutorials you can use to rig a fabulous carrier out of a $16 tablecloth. Good times!
Consider ordering from an Etsy shop. Be certain that the maker is following all current guidelines for testing and safety – do not be afraid to ask! The carriers from BabySabye are a little bit beautiful and sell out fast.
Due to the recent changes is safety regulations, wrap conversion mei tais will be a bit trickier to acquire in the wrap of your choice. These are positive changes for the industry overall, and many wrap companies are working toward releasing their own structured carrier options.
There is much, much more to be said about mei tais, but I’m going to leave you with these two videos and encourage you to leave your questions and thoughts about mei tais in the comments! What else do you want to know? Have a mei tai you love? Go post a picture on my Facebook wall of you rocking the mei tai love!
Enjoy these dorky videos. The first is a front carry using our DIY mei tai, and the second is a sneaky trick for a back carry in our Catbird Baby. Remember, you and you alone are responsible for your baby’s safety – please practice with a spotter or over a soft surface, and please don’t try anything that makes you uncomfortable. It isn’t worth it. Also note that I am imperfect. I can pick apart both of these videos (she should have a better seat in the second, better tightening in the first…) but seriously, how annoying would that make me? Sheesh.