All About Mei Tais and Other Asian-Inspired Baby Carriers

Mei Tais, Podaegis (“Pod”), and Onbuhimos (“Onbu”)…these are all types of Asian-inspired baby carriers and offer babywearers some really amazing options for carrying their children on their front or back! They are perfect for newborns and are ideal for toddlerhood for back carries. In their simplest form, each of these carriers are essentially a rectangular cloth body with three different strap options depending on whether you will be using a Mei Tai, a Pod, or an Onbu.

Mei Tais are the most popular (and widely available) of the Asian-inspired carriers, so we will mostly discuss those. Information on Pods and Onbus can be found at the bottom of this post!

What is a Mei Tai?
“Mei Tais are a traditional Chinese baby carrier. In its very simplest form, a Mei Tai is a rectangular cloth body with straps coming off of each corner. Modern manufacturers have each developed their own take on this traditional design, so there is a wide variety of designs available…from wider panels, to padded straps, to custom creations made using woven wraps…the possibilities are endless for these amazingly functional and versatile baby carriers.
Mei Tais are most easily used for front and back carries (although they can be used for hip carries as well). Back carries can be done at varying heights (younger babies need a high back carry). They are easily transferred between wearers and provide a “custom” fit as they are tied onto the wearer and just live a woven wrap, adjust without buckles based on the wearer’s size.

Mei Tais are a good middle ground for someone who likes the custom fit that using a wrap offers but wants the speed and ease of a soft structured carrier.

MT

Types of Mei Tais
Mei tais can be loosely categorized by strap style, waist style, and body type:

Strap Styles:
• Wrap Style Straps: These straps are un-padded and are worn on the shoulders much like a wrap would be.
• Padded Straps: These straps have some amount of padding on the part of the strap that goes over the shoulder. The rest of the strap is the same width but without padding.
• Padded to Wrap Straps: Found primarily on wrap conversions, padded to wrap straps start with padded shoulders but fan out to wrap width. Bamberoo’s “Hybrid” straps, Ocah’s “Duo” and “Harmony” straps, and ObiMama’s “Kombi” and “Zen” straps fall into this category.
Waist Styles:
• Un-padded: No padding on the waist.
• Padded: Some level of padding on the waist; padding may only be as wide as the body or may extend somewhat around the curve of the waist.
• Structured: Some mei tai makers offer a more structured waist like those found on soft structured carriers. These often have buckles; carriers with a buckle waist and tie straps are often referred to as half buckles.

Body Types and Other Features:
• Material: Most wraps are made from natural fiber materials; straps and inner bodies are generally heavy material like canvas. Most have coverings of print fabric. Some manufactures offer Solarveil carriers and others offer Wrap Conversions (either the body or the entire mei tai made from a woven wrap).
• Size: Some manufacturers offer different body sizes such as infant, standard, or toddler – check the measurements provided by the maker or ask if you are unsure about sizing. Other brands come in one size that is intended for all age babies/toddlers (although no Mei Tai offers a perfect fit from newborn to preschooler). Mei Tai width measurements are taken across the top of the waist band; height is measured from the top of the waistband to the top of the center of the carrier (usually it is specified if this measurement does or doesn’t include the headrest).
• Hoods and Headrests: Many Mei Tais offer hoods and/or headrests that can be used to support a baby’s head as she sleeps. Some hoods can be tucked into the Mei Tai or removed when not in use. Some are flat style and others designed like a sweatshirt hood.
• Body Styles: Some Mei Tais have a flat, rectangular body. Others offer seat darts and/or contoured bodies. Seat darts allow for a deeper seat and will accommodate a larger child than a non-darted body of the same width. Some wearers find that a non-darted body provides a more snug fit than one with darts.”
– Mei Tai information from “Becoming Mamas”, http://www.becomingmamas.com/babywearing/mei-tais/

What is an Onbuhimo?
An Onbuimo or “Onbu” is very similar to a Mai Tai, but instead of both shoulder and waist straps, it has shoulder straps and a pair of rings at the waist. The straps go over the wearer’s shoulders, then through the rings.
Onbuhimo

What is a Podaegi?
A Podeagi, or “Pod”is a traditional Korean-inspired Asian baby carrier that is also similar to a Mei Tai. Unlike a Mei Tai, a Podaegi only has two straps, located at the top of the carrier. It can have either a large, blanket like body, or a narrower body similar to a Mei Tai in size. As a back carrier, the Pod is ideal for use with pregnant moms or moms who are still recovering from a c-section as there is not a waist strap and can be safely secured using the shoulder straps.
Podaegi

Stop by our Pinterest Boards for information on some brands of Mei Tais that are widely available:

…and for videos on how to use Mei Tais and other Asian-inspired baby carriers!!

Advertisements

Buying WAHM / Handmade Carriers: General Guidelines on What to Look For

Tucson Babywearers loves that you are choosing to keep your baby close, and understand that some carriers seem out of reach due to cost and attainability (for those on a budget), or want of a custom carrier (when many of the more popular custom carrier makers are booked solid!). Many babywearers turn to local, micro-businesses for these options (otherwise known as WAHMs (work-at-home-moms), and we just want to take a moment and provide you with some general guidelines on what to look for when considering a WAHM-made and/or handmade carrier.

From the highly-experienced admin team at Babywearing 102:
“There are many fantastic work at home moms (WAHMs) who make quality baby carriers, both on a small scale and a large scale. There are, however, certain things to look for from both a safety and a legal standpoint.

First and foremost, the maker should be completely transparent about the materials and construction used and be happy to answer all your questions. Please see Jan from Sleeping Baby Production’s site on what materials are safe (and unsafe) for use in carrier: http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/fabric.html

There are legal requirements a business owner must meet, whether he or she sells one ring sling or a thousand mei tais. The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) breaks down the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) requirements every carrier maker must meet here: http://www.babycarrierindustryalliance.org/content.php?r=174-Baby-Carrier-Manufacturing-101

Questions to Ask:
■ What materials do you use? What kind of rings do you use (if it is a ring sling/carrier with a ring waist)? How many rows of stitching do you use? Be aware that phrases like “100% cotton” are vague. Quilter’s cotton, for example, is not a recommended material to use in baby carriers. Fabric comes in various weights and quality– some may be safe, some may not. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. Ask how many layers are used. Ask what thread is used. Check the link above to Jan’s site to make sure the materials used are safe.

■ How is it constructed? In the case of mei tais and soft structured carriers, ask if the carrier is made with reinforced stitching/x-boxes and how much seam allowance they use. Ideally a carrier will have 1/2″ to 3/4″ minimum seam allowance on all seams with the body sunk into the waist 2″ and the shoulders sunk into the body 4-5″. Find out more about safe carrier construction and why x-boxes are important here: http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-to-choose-a-safe-mei-tai/10000000008833948/g.html

■ How long have you been making carriers? Please note that just because someone is new doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing. However, some WAHMs have been doing this for 15+ years and completely adhere to the highest level of safety and quality. Even an experienced seamstress might not take into consideration some safety aspects that are specific to baby carriers. A baby carrier must hold up to a lot of weight and use. It’s quite different than making a dress.

■ Are you CPSIA compliant? Do your products come with tags and registration cards with all the necessary information? Please see the link above to the BCIA site to find out specifics on the current requirements. Please note that just because someone is part of the BCIA does not necessarily mean their products are safe or compliant.

■ What is your return policy if I am not happy with the product? Look for a business that stands by their product and will accept returns within a reasonable time frame if you are not satisfied with the construction of the carrier.

Read reviews! We have reviews here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Babywearing102/doc/488323047922545/ but also check reviews on the Babywearing Retailer/WAHM group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/BabywearingRetailerWAHMReview/) as well as on TheBabywearer.com (Product Reviews here: http://www.thebabywearer.com/cgi-bin/reviews/review.pl?product and Vendor Reviews here: http://www.thebabywearer.com/cgi-bin/reviews/review.pl?vendor.All). Don’t forget to leave an honest review once you receive a product!

Final Notes: We all want a good deal. There are many reputable WAHMs out there who make safe, quality products. While there are currently no regulations on materials or construction, it’s important to make an informed decision on what carrier you use. It is not a handbag carrying your cell phone, it’s carrying your child a few feet off the ground. We are not suggesting that you have to spend $200+ to get a safe carrier. There are many inexpensive, safe options out there that abide by the legal requirements and general safety guidelines. Never be afraid to ask us if something looks safe. If we don’t know, we’ll track down people who will know!”

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us on the Tucson Babywearers Facebook page with any questions or concerns about WAHM-made carriers!!

COTW: Double Hammock (DH)

DH1 DH4 DH3 DH2

COTW for the week of July 15th is: Double Hammock (DH)

This week’s carry is one of the most popular (and supportive) back carries. The Double Hammock (DH) – also called a Chunei Back Carry – is a great back carry that keeps both toddlers and babies nice and secure, and most woven wrap babywearers will tell you how much they love a Double Hammock! This carry uses a longer wrap and includes two rebozo passes across baby’s back, a horizontal chest pass, and ruck-style shoulder straps.

Why we like it…the Double Hammock centers the weight to your chest so you aren’t using just your shoulders for support. It’s multilayered, making it fabulous to support a heavier child or carry for lengthy periods of time. The DH is also great for those wiggle worms and ideal for small babies and bigger ones alike.

Generally considered one of the most comfortable carries, the Double Hammock has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s one back carry definitely worth learning! The key to a good Double Hammock is a nice snug chest pass. It may take a few tries, but once you get this carry down, you’ll love the support it gives!

We have featured not only the classic carry to learn and review, but also a few interesting variations and finishes. A different finish or chest belt can redistribute weight and change the feel of the entire carry. Try it out and let us know what you think!

Check back in next week to see what wrap carry we’ll feature next!

Safety: Stretchy/Knit Wraps must not be used for Back Carries. Please keep in mind that if this is your first time doing a back carry, or even this particular carry, you should have a spotter and/or practice over a soft surface such as a bed or a couch. You can even practice with a doll or stuffed animal first until you feel comfortable.

Double Hammock with a Woven Wrap

Double Hammock with Tips for a Snug Chest Pass

Double Hammock Tied at Shoulder (DH TAS)

Double Hammock Tied at Shoulder (DH TAS)

Double Hammock with a Toddler

Double Hammock: Alternate Finishes
Double Hammock: Tied Tibetan and Sternum Strap Chestbelt

Double Hammock Double Rings (DH-DR)

Double Hammock Rebozo

Double Hammock Rebozo with Sling Ring Finish

“Golden Rule of Babywearing”

“The Golden Rule of Babywearing: Treat all babywearers with the respect we would like to be treated with. Whether new or experienced, all babywearers are parents that love their babies and want to wear them. They deserve to be treated kindly without judgement.”

Please take a few moments to read the wonderful article entitled “Golden Rule of Babywearing” linked below. It is a great reminder for new and experienced babywearers alike about what babywearing really means. So often, new-to-babywearing parents feel judged or belittled for not using what others in the babywearing community deem to be the “ideal carrier.”

As a group, we at Tucson Babywearers are in agreement with the ideas expressed in this article…babywearing is not just about which carrier you choose to use, it is about keeping your baby close and wearing your baby safely. That is all. Simple as that.

We do feel that many carriers are more comfortable than others and would love to show you what options might work best for your family, but we do not wish to exclude or judge any parent based upon the carrier they have right now, at this moment.

We think it is beautiful that you have made the choice to have your little one close…to hear your heartbeat and to feel your warmth, and we wholeheartedly support you on this journey into babywearing!

“Golden Rule of Babywearing”

“Wrapping 360” by Babywearing 102

Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC)

Check out this amazing collaboration from the Facebook group, Babywearing 102! Tucson Babywearer’s is also proud to say that two of our members, Cybil and Chyna, were a part of making this fabulous project happen, and we couldn’t be more excited!

“Wrapping 360” is a pictorial illustrating some of the most common woven wrap carries from all angles including clickable links to videos and tutorials for the individual carries.

Click on the link below for a full view of the Wrapping 360 PDF file and let us know what you think!
Wrapping 360 by Babywearing 102

COTW: Robin’s Hip Carry (RHC)

COTW for the week of July 8th is: Robin’s Hip Carry (RHC)

COTW_RHC_short COTW_RHC1 COTW_RHC2 COTW_Robins_Sling Ring

COTW for the week of July 8th is: Robin’s Hip Carry (RHC)

This week’s carry is the Robin’s Hip Carry (RHC). Hip carries are a great option for many babywearers, and are great to use for infants (with head control) and toddlers alike. Many wearers find hip carries a little less challenging to wrap than back carries, and love the fact that it is easier to accomplish many tasks that can be frustrating due to an obstructed view in a front carry.

Hip carries are also a great solution to the “my baby likes to face out” problem that many parents experience. Like a high back carry, a hip carry allows baby to see out, but also provides a safe and natural retreat against the parent’s (or caregiver’s) chest when they start to experience too much stimulation or become sleepy.

Robin’s Hip Carry (RHC) is a great carry for shorter durations, and for babies who can sit on their own. This carry is quite versatile since you can use a longer wrap (6 or 7) and tie in back, a shorter wrap (3 or 4) and tie under bum. RHC may look a little complicated, but it is fairly quick and easy to learn. It is also a comfortable and easy carry to nurse in and for laying down a sleeping baby. RHC can be modified to a front carry (tummy-to-tummy), and also has a variation using a sling ring.

The key to the RHC is getting the shoulder/back passes smooth and evenly spread, and placing the “anchor point” high to achieve optimal comfort and to protects against leaning. Similar to a ring sling, the anchor point – where the wrap crosses/twists at the shoulder – should be where one would wear a brooch or pin (between collar bone and top of breast).

Try it out and let us know what you think…and be sure to come back next week to see what wrap carry we’ll feature next! Happy Babywearing!

Robin’s Hip Carry (with a longer wrap)

Robin’s Hip Carry (with a shorter wrap)

Robin’s Hip Carry

Robin’s Hip Carry with a Sling Ring (aka Leigh’s Robin’s Hip Carry)