This month we’re so excited to discuss all things about the mei tai! The mei tai (pronounced May-Tie) is a highly versatile carrier excellent for infants to toddlers and beyond. I have a deep, enduring love for the mei tai as it was one of the first baby carriers I ever owned way back in 2007. BWI of Greater Austin is proud to share over 30 different mei tais from our lending library with the community, and we are committed to finding the perfect fit for everyone! I’m thrilled to share the mei tai love with you all and kick off a month filled with Ah-MAY-zing mei tais!
The mei tai is an Asian style carrier with a lengthy history dating back hundreds of years. This blog post from Babywearing International highlights more of the history surrounding the Mei Tai and other Asian style carriers. Their design consists of a rectangular center panel and four straps located on each corner for tying around the waist and shoulders. They can be easily adjusted between differently sized caregivers, and come in a variety of sizes, variations and fabric style choices, making them a favorite for many caregivers. They’re also a great summer option because they allow for airflow around caregiver and baby and come in a number of lightweight materials perfect for warm weather!
We often see several terms for different styles of mei tais, and we’ll break down what each of them means and the features they offer:
Standard Mei Tei with Padded Straps – These consist of a soft, flexible center panel constructed of canvas or printed fabric, an unstructured waist, and more narrow, often padded shoulder straps. Generally, they’re a good choice for smaller babies as they’re less bulky and can be cinched or rolled at the waist to narrow and shorten the panel. Common brands include the Catbird Baby, the Babyhawk, and the Infantino Sash. Right in the heart of our very own Austin, Enlightened Baby is a local retailer of Catbird Baby Mei Tais.
Wrap Conversion Mei Tai (WCMT) – Wrap conversion mei tais are constructed from woven wraps and consist of a center panel which may include a contoured seat and leg padding. Some may have narrow, padded shoulder straps, wider wrap straps, or padded to wrap straps which combine features of both. The waist is sometimes thicker and padded. Common brands include the Didymos DidyTai, Soul Tai, Girasol MySol, BB-Tai, Fidella FlyTai, and Lenny Lamb Mei Tai. 5 Minute Recess is popular online retailer, right here in Texas, offering a variety of mei tais!
Half Buckle Tai (HBMT) – Half buckles consist of a structured, buckle waist similar to a buckle carrier but with mei tai straps. The Kokadi TaiTai features this design as well as a cinch-able body panel for smaller babies.
Reverse Buckle Tai (RBMT) –Reverse buckle carriers consist of a tie waist and shoulder straps that buckle similar to a buckle carrier. There are a variety of woven wrap converters who make reverse buckles tais.
Carriers that can be narrowed/cinched for smaller babies – Several brands can be cinched at the panel to provide a better fit for smaller babies. Common brands include the Didymos DidyTai, Girasol MySol, Catbird Baby, and Fidella FlyTai.
Mei Tais sometimes feature padded headrests or several different hood styles, such as a hoodie hood or flat hood, or no hood at all. Ring waists are an alternative to a tie waist, and feature one long strap on one side and a pair of rings on the other that are threaded together similar to a ring sling. They also come in a variety of panel widths and heights to fit infants all the way up to toddlers and preschoolers. Waist and shoulder strap measurements do vary in length depending on the manufacturer, so that may alter the fit and carry options depending on the caregiver and child.
Tips for Safe and Comfortable Wearing
We recommend practicing with your carrier when both you and baby are well rested and content. Your waist strap should be tied snug against your body at a height on your torso that facilitates a visible and kissable position for baby. The panel should be narrowed at the base to create the proper width for smaller babies. A proper fit ensures that the panel does not extend past the back of baby’s knees, and legs should be able to swing freely at the knee. Mei Tais should be tied in such a way to maintain the natural curve of baby’s spine, usually no higher than the top of the diaper. It should not be so tight or high to cause an unnatural arch in the back, and knees should be higher than their bottom. For newborns and smaller infants, we recommend tying high enough on the sides to pin them closed. The panel can be rolled and shortened to avoid covering baby’s head. The top of the panel should come up to the base of the neck to support the head for smaller babies, or under the armpits for older children who prefer arms out.
Wearing your Mei Tai
Front Carry with a Newborn – This video by Wrapping Rachel has some good tips for wearing a newborn legs out. We recommend cinching your mei tai with something that will hold its shape and not break, such as a ribbon or shoelace. I like this photo tutorial for additional tips and tricks for using your mei tai with a smaller baby. This video shows both legs in and legs out variations for wearing a newborn. For newborns who prefer to curl their legs up in the fetal position, legs inside the carrier can be a good option. Once babies start to uncurl and straighten their legs and push down on the bottom of the carrier with their feet, it’s time to switch to legs out.
Front Carry with an Older Baby – Check out this video from Babywearing Faith for instructions on how to front carry with a Mei Tai.
Hip Carry – I like this video for hip carry instructions. Most babies will be ready for hip carries once you can naturally carry them on your hip in your arms and they have enough head and trunk control to not flop over, usually around 4+ months of age. Another physical milestone is the ability to push up with their arms when lying on their stomach and be able to keep their head raised without a need to rest.
Back Carry – Another video by Wrapping Rachel, this time showing how to hip scoot an older baby into a back carry. We recommend mastering your front carry and hip carry and being very familiar with adjusting your carrier before moving on to back carries. While some mei tais can facilitate a back carry with a younger infant, it’s often easier to practice back carries with an older, more compliant child. We recommend starting back carries once your child can sit without minimal assistance, and fits the carrier without any modification, such as cinching. This usually occurs around 4-6 months of age. Check out this photo tutorial for tips on making a comfortable seat for your baby.
Tie-off and Chest Strap Variations
The great thing about mei tais is the ability the create many different chest strap and tie off variations. For shorter shoulder straps not long enough to cross and tie in back, they can be tied low under baby’s bottom. They can also be brought over both legs and crossed at the bottom, before being brought under both legs and tying off in back. Chest strap variations include ruck, tibetan, half knot, or twisting at the chest before tying off in back. This photo series from Beltway Babywearers does a nice job of illustrating different variations.
I love the mei tai for its versatility for all ages and stages, multitude of wearing options, and variety of styles! Whether you’ve already found the mei tai love or are interested in learning more about this style of carrier, we hope you will join us for a month filled with Ah-MAY-zing mei tais!
Annnnd now, an Ah-MAY-zing GIVEAWAY!
Since the Mei Tai is such a great summer carrying option, comment on this blog telling us your favorite summer time activity to do with your kiddo!
Then fill out this form to be entered to win this amazing Soul Slings Soul-Tai!