What used to be known as Mei Tais are now called Bei Dais and Meh Dais, and they as well as all variations of them are fantastic carriers. They are, however, frequently looked over due to the large amount of various options in the marketplace. These are actually some of the oldest kinds of carriers anywhere on earth, and they combine how flexible the woven wrap is with how simple and convenient a carrier with a buckle happens to be.
As with other carriers the Bei Dais and variations of them have to be used in a safe manner while following all TICKS guidelines. What is going to be of the utmost importance is to keep your baby’s airway protected. Take care to ensure your baby’s neck never becomes folded in half, and make sure that you can always fit 2 fingers in-between their tiny chest and chin.
The position that is most often used for carrying any babies that are young is going to be that where they face the parent and remain upright, have their legs a tiny bit spread apart (also called the M position), with great support in place for their head. This position helps to keep their fast growing spine and hips safe and protected. The material needs to be fit nice and snug around the baby to ensure that the most perfect fit is in place.
The other kinds of long strapped carriers, in addition to the Bei Dais, are able to be used as a back carry or hip carry. Some variations like the Onbuhimo have been made specifically for carrying an older baby on the back, most usually with their arms out of the material.
Everyone I know loves these. They are able to give a similar ease of use and structure as buckle carriers, but they also have the addition of being able to be shaped around parents and their children. I also really enjoy being able to tie vs buckle straps…it’s just appealing to me visually and feels better. They’re so comfy and flexible, and I find it to be so enjoyable to be able to carry my daughter with this method.
Mei Dai – What is it?
The Meh Dai (known as Bei Dai or previously the Mei Tai) tends to be a more known name granted to a specific kind of Asian carrier that came from China decades past. It is made up of a panel from fabric, has longer straps wrapped around the body of the parent, and is made to be twisted, tucked, or tied securely. The name for this kind of carrier in Chinese (often mispronounced) is now often used for the style itself. However, each culture does have its own variation of this type of cloth based carrier, and all of them are made up of a fabric panel that has longer straps made to wind around a parent and their baby to make for a carry that is secure.
It is this type of style of carrier that is often made from a variety of fabric types. They’re made with woven cloth covered in beads, grass, reeds, and many more fabrics. There are many of these that are even heirlooms of the culture that have ritual significance, and quite a few out there are extremely gorgeous in their making. They show off a high quality of workmanship in the culture while still being very useful for the day to day life of those using them.
These cultural designs have inspired quite a few carriers in Western culture. Many of the more modern versions and variations are now made with canvas or cotton, with some being a wrap that is woven. Yes, this even includes the more common carriers that are buckled.
What Makes Meh Dais So Great?
When it comes to the world here in the West for babywearing, the Meh Dais tend to be pretty well liked with any parent who likes a molded carrying system that is supported by wraps that are woven while still looking for something that is a bit more defined and structured than a simple fabric piece.
After all, the design will be made up of a panel of fabric with 2 straps on the base, and those become wrapped, tied, or buckled snugly around the parent’s waist, and then it has another 2 straps on the top panel used for wrapping around the baby and the parent so that it is very comfy and snug fitting. The baby will end up with their legs sticking out while sitting inside of that little pouch, and then the straps end up giving one plenty of flexibility to adjust it to a variety of carrying methods.
If you practice a bit this will end up being something that is very fast to set up, and many around the world like how flexible this is when compared to the structured design of a buckle based carrier. The straps are able to be adjusted so that they can conform perfectly around one’s torso since they are knotted and wrapped around. This is something that is a bit difficult with many of the buckle based carriers out there as they are more rigid due to their specific lengths or where the buckles are placed.
You also get additional support as needed for the middle & upper parts of your back since the straps are more wide and made from a wrap fabric, which makes it fairly popular among many. This fabric allows them to be set across one’s shoulders as needed while also wrapping it around the bottom of the baby for additional weight support. it also helps to make the seat a bit broader for those with legs that are longer. The straps are lightly padded and wide which allows them to be more comfy than those thin straps you see on certain brands that are more cheaply made.
Meh Dai Variations
If you’ve seen half buckles, those are the same except that they have a waistband that is buckled while still using the shoulder straps that are longer to tie it up just like a normal version. People like to use the waist buckle when they’re new to these types of carriers since it helps with figuring out which knots to loosen 1st to pull your baby out of it. These half buckled types are typically made to order by those who specialize in them, and are used a lot by those who are looking for a flexible setup that is still sturdy with pads and a buckle.
The South Korean Chunei types of carriers are those you see that look like a jacket set around one’s torso with a pocket inside for the little one to be carried in.
The Korean Podaegis are those that have a long blanket wrapped around the baby with 2 straps at the very top. The baby is held in position by tying the straps around the your torso and then around the little one. This kind of carrier has no waistband. The original podaegis actually had straps that would tie under the arm, but most that you’ll see from the United States will make use of straps that go over the top of one’s shoulders instead.
The Onbuhimos are a back carrier from Japan, and these have loops made with fabric or even metal rings attached to the waistband so that you can thread longer strap through them. Some versions in the United States will be seen with buckles and webbing. These are often used by those looking to back carry. The word “onbu” loosely translates as “to carry on the back” while the word “himo” refers to a string/rope. You tie the string/rope snug around the baby’s legs so that they end up staying safe in their sitting position. This variation often has no waistband since it is intended to be a higher wearing setup. These are helpful if your little one wants to be able to look out and see more, or if you happen to be carrying one child while you’re pregnant.
When I carry my toddler in my Mei Tai I just love it. Sometimes we’ll spend the whole day with her in it since she wants to be nowhere else but close to me, and this gives her that feeling of closeness while still letting me do other things around the house. It is very useful for those times where she might feel overwhelmed, too, and needs to feel more comfort and safety while still being out. One things about these that I really like is how easy and fast the buckles are while still having plenty of flexibility and support from the wrap itself.
Putting the Meh Dai On
First you’ll want to tie this around your waist. If you like you can use it similar to an apron where the panel is hanging straight down to the floor from the edge. Doing it this way makes a small pouch that your baby can be seated in. Alternatively you could tie the flat against your torso with the panel folding down to the floor over the waist section. If your waistband is softer it can be rolled over itself so that it shortens the panel’s height instead, and then it would reach the baby’s neck on the back (most have this go up to the bottom of the ears, usually).
Next, grab your baby and have him held against your chest with his chest while putting him in the M shape (legs out like a squat while sitting). Place one of your hands underneath the panel and bring the fabric up along his back, changing hands as you go. This helps to make sure he stays snug and safe up along you.
Now make sure to tug any fabric up that became loosened at the knees and smooth out the panel over his back. While you keep 1 hand on your child place the shoulder straps onto your shoulders; they should be hanging to the floor behind you after this. Now, still keeping 1 hand on your child bring up your other hand behind you at the waist and grab the opposite shoulder strap. Go ahead and pull that strap down and tighten it, then pull it across the back diagonal and then around the side of your torso. Be sure to get rid of any additional looseness that was created. Pull the strap across your little one’s leg and then be sure to hold both the strap and the child with that same hand. Do the same for the other side as well.
Once you have both straps in front of your little one move your shoulders a bit and get rid of any slack that might be left. Change the straps to the opposite sides in your hands underneath the booty of your child, and then pull both of them up underneath his leg and then to your back. Once there you’ll want to tie it off.
Once this is all tied make sure that your little one is seated with their booty above their knees in a pelvic tuck, and that his chest is up against your own chest without being slumped. If none of this is correct you’ll want to undo the knot and tighten up the straps before retying.
For some extra comfy support you can push out the shoulder straps wide so that they are cupped around your shoulders. For additional lifting you could also move the straps out more over your child’s booty.Once you’re done both their chest and stomach should be snug up against you. In the event that you are having a hard time with this be sure to watch the video below or shoot us an email.
It does take a decent amount of practicing in order to learn how to properly utilize one of these on your back, hip, and even the front facing position. Though I should say that there are certain mothers and fathers that teach themselves how to do this without any headaches. Many of us, though, wind up needing to try several times before we start to get it correctly wrapped.
Video for a Mei Tai Front Carry
Below is a quick guide using pictures to help you to set up the Meh Dai in an upright position with your child. Feel free to click through or swipe through all the images to see the pictures more clearly.
As an important note the tutorial itself refers to the old name as it was made prior to the name being changed. *UPDATE: This has been removed due to being outdated. Please see the above video instead.
Additional Usage Tips
- Create additional lifting by spreading the fabric over the booty of the baby.
- For babies keep their arms in whenever you can, especially if younger. Often a toddler does prefer to keep their arms out, though; make sure that the panel goes up to their armpits.
- Be sure to get rid of any slack as you tie, and smooth the back panel up as much as possible.
- Decide ahead of time what you want to do with the waistband in order to keep the panel the perfect height for the back of your little one.
- Get rid of looseness as you make the strap tighter by moving your shoulders.
- For the best results make the wrap straps tighter piece by piece.
- Do the pelvic tilt correctly to keep the weight of your little one on their booty instead of their knees, and don’t make the straps on the child’s knees overly tight.
- By making sure you have the right baby position from the start you’ll make things easier as you go. Ensure that your child is seated in the M shape, and don’t forget to keep their chest close to your own while you tie.
My wrap conversion Mei Tai is the best, and I love it because it gives me some of the greatest features of both kinds of carriers. It is pretty and comfortable like a wrap, but has a full buckle carrier’s easy ups. The weight of the wrap straps spreads better over my shoulders while giving additional support for my little one’s booty.
Often Heard Meh Dais Questions
Wearing the Meh Dais and Their Variations While Feeding
You can absolutely feed while wearing these carriers with a soft strap. You’ll just need to pay a bit of attention to make sure to protect the airway of your little one. Usually what this means when breastfeeding is making the panel more loose in steps to slowly lower your child down to the nipple in a gentle way. Remember that once they are done with being fed you’ll want to put them back into their secure positioning where they’re upright.
How early can I start to do back and hip carrying using a Meh Dai and related variations of carriers?
You can carry a baby off center from the front when they’re younger than you’d think, but you’ll need to make sure that their M shape tuck is kept in position. Doing a hip carry laterally works well once your baby can be seated next do you, which is usually seen around three to four months/when they start being able to roll around.
Now, as for back carries, you can do them with by combining this with a Podaegi, and when younger than you’d think as well, especially if using a woven wrapped version. This is because the straps and panel tend to be very flexible to help keep the airway open and prevent the baby from becoming slumped over.
The Onbuhimos are made specifically for doing a back carry, and many parents find that this is pretty simple. These work well with older, not younger, kids. All of the weight is placed onto the shoulders/upper torso, which works well for certain parents and less so for other parents.
Believe it or not, doing a back carry position is actually fairly more difficult than it is to do a hip and front carry, so keep that in mind before you tie and go on a long walk!
Tips for Meh Dai Troubleshooting
- If you’re getting dug into on your neck or shoulders you can redistribute the weight by spreading the fabric as wide as possible across your shoulders.
- If your little one’s leg is getting too straight make sure that youplace the straps that cross under their knee pits while they’re in the M shape.
- If you see your little one slouched off to the side then the panel or the straps closest to your own neck might be too loose, causing their back to be less supported. Pull your little one closer to your chest to try and tighten the panel around them once more. Be sure that the straps aren’t near your neck and are instead on the widest part of your own shoulders.
- If you find your little one’s head falling back too much this is often caused by the upper third section of the pouch being too loose, or possible from the fabric not being far enough up their back. If you can go ahead and make the panel longer and move the straps out more on your own shoulders while moving the top edge of the panel closer.
- If you are carrying too low or if it feels loose then the straps might be too loose, which can move up towards the front. You’ll want to tie again and then tighten again as well.
- If you can’t seem to get it as tight as you’d like try to hold your little one’s booty with one of your hands to cut back on the weight you need to pull up while tightening the strap. You can pin the strap that is tight with your knees to keep it from getting loose and then do the same process on the flip side.
- If you find any red marks on your little one’s neck at the back it often indicates too tight of a tie. You’ll want to try to loosen it ever so slightly while being sure to keep them snug and secure.