A Mei Tai (MT) style carrier is an amazingly versatile option in the babywearing world. There are Mei Tais that are geared towards very small infants, toddlers, adjustable Mei Tais, budget friendly Mei Tais ($25!), fancy wrap conversions and more. There are so many choices out there; it can be hard to know where to begin! The best info to know before choosing a Mei Tai (or any carrier really!) is about safety. We all know that it isn’t good to size up in a SSC (soft structured carrier) before your child fits, and the same applies with a Mei Tai. It’s important to find one that fits you and your child correctly, and know how to use it correctly for the age of your child. Most Mei Tais can be used from birth, but require modification to fit properly. You want a Mei Tai that is geared towards younger babies, or has some built in modifications such as cinchable sides, adjustable base, or the ability to roll the waist band “apron style.” You want the panel of your carrier to be similar in size to your baby, not going beyond the neck or causing bunching anywhere in the sides.
If your panel or base is slightly too large, here are some modifications you can add to the Mei Tai:
Rolled blanket(s) or prefold: A rolled blanket can be used to position baby properly, and take up some of the space in the panel so that it comes up to the back of baby’s neck. “Apron Style”: Alternatively, you can roll the waist of the carrier like you would an apron, making the panel smaller. Generally you would use this instead of a rolled blanket, NOT with.
The reason why you don’t want extra space in the panel is to insure that baby is well supported and is not at risk for positional asphyxia. Newborns and young infants do not yet have the core strength to reposition themselves as needed to protect their airways. You always want baby’s face above the top of the panel so you can monitor their breathing. Another common modification is to cinch the base of the carrier so the baby can be legs out. This sometimes needs to be done even for older infants, if the carrier has a base that is wider than knee to knee on the baby. Some MTs come with the ability to cinch. For others you will need to use a scrunchie or ribbon to gently pull the base in to where you need it. How do you know how far to cinch the base? Laying baby on top of the carrier on a safe surface will help you measure the width needed in order for baby to be supported knee to knee. Keeping baby supported knee to knee with legs above bum is important until they begin walking.
All of these modifications and unique to Mei Tais because a Mei Tai has a flexible panel, whereas a soft structured carrier is just that, structured. Another important safety point about modifying a Mei Tai, is that if you use any modification that does not come built in with the carrier, you cannot use it on your back. This brings us to one of the most common questions…
When can you wear your baby on your back in a Mei Tai? Since a Mei Tai has a flexible panel, it contours around baby much like a woven wrap does. This is very different from a soft structured carrier that is more rigid and meant to be worn lower like a backpack. Baby’s back is well supported by a properly fitting Mei Tai and is able to maintain the rounded position while against the wearers straightened back. The only extra thing you need to pay attention to when wearing a newborn or small infant on your back in a Mei Tai, is that they are worn high enough to rest their head on the back of your neck, and you can feel their breathing in the same spot. As always be sure to master a front carry in a Mei Tai before trying it out on your back. Learning a back carry with a stuffed animal, and using the mirror as a guide can be very helpful before trying it out with your own baby.
Ali has been babywearing since she was a teenager as a nanny and had also worn her nieces and nephews. She found her love for woven wraps with her first child around 9 months old. She had watched a few YouTube videos of wrapping, unfortunately, babywearing groups didn't exist near her at the time. After a lot of sweat and tears, she finally got it and now her biggest passion is helping parents and caregivers learn to wear their babies. She is a firm believer that there truly is a wrap, sling, or carrier out there for everyone. Ali resides in Fairfax with her husband, and two toddlers. She holds a degree in early childhood special education, but mostly enjoys being home with my children. She works part time for herself at wisehartparenting.com as a lactation counselor and postpartum doula, among other things. Her latest passion has included becoming a certified as a child passenger safety technician (CPST) and performing free car seat checks.