There are severeal carrier styles available. Which one is right for you?
A meh dai has four long straps and a rectangular shaped body panel. This carrier style was inspired by traditional Chinese baby carriers. It is a very versatile carrier and can be worn on front, back, and even on your hip.
A meh dai is is supportive for long periods of carrying. This carrier style will fit a fairly large age range so it's great if you have both a baby and a toddler. The relatively unstructured nature of the fabric panel means it is easy to modify through small adjustments. This carrier style is also great for sharing between different sized wearers.
The shoulder straps can be tied in different ways to vary how weight is distrubuted on your shoulders and you can wear the waistband at your waist or at the top of your hip bones (where ever is most comfortable for you). You also can spread the shoulder straps over baby's bum for added support if desired. There are severeal different shoulder strap styles to choose from. Your can read about the different styles here.
Most meh dais are reversible so you can potentially get two different looks in one.
To adjust your meh dai for a perfect fit you can roll the botton to make the carrier shorter or make it narrower by cinching the botton with a ribbon. Built in adjustments (an optional extra) make this even more convenient. The sides of the panel cinch down with a drawstring and the waist is sewn in a channel making it easy to cinch. There is a velcro closure to make sure the panel stays in the right spot when fully extended and when not in use the velcro is covered by a piece of fleece so it won't pull on you carrier or clothing. The waistband is quilted which offers great support without being bulky. The waist can be be worn apron or non apron style (see this article for more information).
Meh dai's do take a little longer to put on than a full buckle carrier but not by much. You will get very quick at putting your baby in with a bit of practice.
Some wrap conversion meh dais can be somewhat bulky to carry around (depending on the wrap used). This is easily solved by bringing a bag if you have and up and down toddler, or you can tie the carrier up into a handy bundle with carry handle (see this article for instructions). Linen meh dais fold up relatively small.
Some people are concerned that long strap tails are at risk of getting dirty in muddy weather. However I found I could almost always find somewhere dry to tie the carrier on. Alternatively there are clever solutions like tucking the tails into your pockets or braiding the staps to shorten them (or even partly pre tying your carrier). You can find some more tips here.
A meh dai is easy to learn to use and while it's fun to explore fancy finishes with your straps you don't need to do this to enjoy your carrier. The basic carries are quick to tie and comfortable
A small advantage of the meh dai over the half buckle that it is a little quicker and easier to roll the waist to shorten the carrier (with a half buckle you have to take the buckles off and rethread them to do this otherwise they will be upside down). Your can also tie your waist straps though the shoulder straps for a waist free high back carry.
A half buckle is a hybrid baby carrier that combines the ease of a buckle carrier with the comfort and versatility of a wrap. It is the same basic design as the meh dai but with a buckle instead of a tie waist.
A half buckle can be used in the same ways as a meh dai and feels very similar to wear. The advantages are that it is a bit quicker to take off (and you will never accidentally untie the waist straps instead of the shoulder straps!) and the buckle can help you tie the waist a bit more firmly, which is useful when you prefer your waistband to sit at a particular spot. It is also slightly less bulky without the long fabric waist straps.
The Hipababy full buckle is fairly unstructed and not bulky so feels similar to the comfort of a meh dai to wear. Full buckles are very easy to use, just pop baby in and go!
A full buckle is the quickest carrier to put on so is great for an toddler who is up and down a lot. It aslo folds up small enough to be convenient to carry around in your bag just in case.
Full buckles fit a fairly wide age range (especially with built in height and width adjustments added) although not quite as flexible in sizing as a meh dai/ half buckle. The waist can be be worn apron or non apron style (just remove the buckles and reverse them). Full buckles are reversible for two different looks but if you add fit adjusters to your shoulder straps that is no longer the case. Fit adjusters are a small length of webbing with a slider which cinches the shoulder straps shorter which can be quite useful when sharing between differen sized wearers.
Reverse Half Buckle
A reverse half buckle has buckled shoulder straps and a tie waist (or ring waist). Quick to put on and folds up fairly small so is a great carrier to have in your bag just in case. Also great if you don't like the feel of a buckled waistband but want the convenience of buckled shoulder straps. Some people like the look and comfort of spreading the wide waist strap over their stomach.
Pictured below is a revese half buckle with ring waist.
Narrow Blanket Podaegi
The poadegi is a traditional baby carrier used in Korea. The western version has a narrower blanket but can be used in a similar way. Similar carriers are also found across South East Asia (eg the nyia used by the Hmong or the bei bei from China). A podaegi has two long straps which are sewn horizontaly and a long blanket body panel. It is similar in use to a meh dai without the bottom straps and with the added advantage of being able to be used for torso carries.
A podaegi is the most versatile of the carrier styles and one size truly does fit all. Where you tie the straps determines the height of the carrier so your baby will not grow out of the podaegi. You can wear this carrier as a torso carrier or use the straps for shoulder support. There are many ways to tie (you can use any carry that you would in a woven baby wrap as long as it is a carry where baby sits in the centre of the wrap). You can wear your little one on your front, back, or hip. Similar to a woven wrap you don't need a hood but you can add one if you prefer, or a headrest. Podaegis like meh dai's and half buckles are great for sharing between different sized wearers. There are only two straps to deal with so can be very quick to tie on. Fairly compact when folded so easy to carry around.
A ring sling is a long piece of fabric, usually around 2m long with a pair of sling rings sewn in. It is based on traditional tied on shawls or lengths of fabric used as carriers all over the world (for example the rebozo found in Mexico).
Ring slings are great for newborns and small babies as it is very easy to get a customised and snug fit. Ring slings are also great for sharing between different sized wearers. There is a small learning curve to get used to positioning baby and tightening the sling but soon it will feel like second nature. Most ring slings I make are wrap conversions but I also offer linen ring slings. Ring slings made of linen can help to keep your baby cool in summer. Linen is a very strong fibre so the fabric can be thinner than other fabrics typically used for ring slings, but will still hold your baby comfortably and safety. This makes them perfect for hot weather and their lighter weight makes them very easy to adjust for beginners. The only disadvantage is that if you have a heavy toddler you make prefer a thicker double layer linen sling or a wrap conversion for more cushiness on your shoulder.
A wrap conversion is made from a woven baby wrap cut to length. If your wrap is a size 5 (4.2m) the wrap can be split into two ring slings (great for sharing with a friend).
Since ring slings are a one shouldered carrier it can be a bit tiring to carrier heavy toddlers for long periods of time but they are great for situations where your toddler is up and down a lot. A ring sling allows your toddler to rest tired legs on a long walk, or get a little bit of connection before going off to play again. They are also great for a quick trip to the shops or for school drop offs and pick ups. I also really liked ring slings for picking my sleeping baby up from their car seat- since they are so quick to put on baby will often just snuggle in a continue their nap.
A ring sling is the easiest carrier to have on hand for when you need it. It folds up small so is easy to just pop in bag.
Handy for breastfeeding on the go and the tail can be used as a cover up or sun shade.
Ring slings are great for nosy babies who aren't old enough for a back carry. A hip carry gives your baby or toddler a good view of the world but they are still able to snuggle in for a bit or rest or sleep if they need to.
Wrap Conversions or Linen?
Woven baby wraps make great ring slings and can be converted into any of the other styles of carriers I make. Woven baby wraps are specifically woven to carry babies so they have just the right amount of give to mold around your baby and are very strong and hardwearing. If your wrap is not long enough I can add in some extra fabric to make up the extra length (depending on your chosen carrier style). Further information about wrap conversions can be found here and if you would like to order your own wrap conversion or custom carrier visit my shop.
What if you are interested in a wrap conversion but don't have a wrap? There are some alternatives to buying a brand new wrap to convert (although that can be a good option if you are love a specific colour or pattern). Used wraps are fine as long as they are in good condition. It is fairly easy to source a second hand wrap as you can often find a good deal on facebook groups or marketplace or on ebay. Another alternative is to use Colimacon & Cie. This is a woven fabric specially made for babywearing produced in France from organic cotton, and comes in a wide range of beautiful colours. I have a small selection in stock but can order in any of the colours. Some wrap companies also produce plain white wraps which can be dyed if prefered.
Linen makes breathable and light carriers and is available in a huge range of colours. Linen is great for summer and packs up small and will also soften beautifully with with wear and washing.
The long straps found on mei tai’s on half buckles can be intimidating in the winter months. How to keep them clean?
Personally I just find a clean surface if I can but if I can’t I don’t worry too much. If my straps get dirty I spot clean them or wash the carrier (wash on cold on a delicate cycle – in a laundry bag if you have a top loader). I haven’t had any problems getting the straps clean, even my white strapped carrier, the only stain I couldn’t remove was my fault (don’t give a toddler chocolate while wearing!)
However there are a few other methods you can use to minimize your straps dragging on the ground, most of them simple and easy.
1/ Find something to rest your straps on.
If getting out of the car, lay the straps on a seat, but any clean surface will do, such as a table or chair.
Tie the waist strap on, then hold on to the top straps so they don't drag on the ground.
Then put on one shoulder strap at a time (if doing one at a time, You can control where they go a little better and get it on without it dragging on the ground).
After getting the shoulder straps situated, you can tuck the ends into your waist strap (and/or your pockets). Then grab your baby and untuck one strap at a time. If the straps still come too close to the floor while you are putting the carrier on just untuck/retuck it back in until they are too short to touch the ground.
2/ Pre tie
Put the carrier on before leaving home (with baby inside so you get a good fit), remove the straps off of your shoulders, and take baby out, without untying. Or if you want to tie without baby just tie the the mei tai on you front the way you would if baby were inside, only leave it loose. Leave enough room to slip your baby into the body.
When you get to your destination hold baby up on your shoulder, slide baby down into the body. Make sure to position their legs on either side of the body so that their knees are higher than their bum. You may need to pull up on the top of the carrier to settle them down inside.
When you get to a clean and dry place retie so that the carrier is snug enough and the straps are in a good place, with practice, if you can leave it just loose enough to slip baby in, you might not need to make too many adjustments after.
If you need to take your baby out you don't take the whole thing off every time, just untie or slip the shoulders off and once baby is out, loosely tie the shoulder straps back on so they aren't trailing the ground.
3/ Braided Strap Method
This clever method was shared through Wrapsody’s babywearing hack challenge. Link to the original article. https://wrapsodybaby.com/keep-mei-tai-straps-clean/ . This also works for a back carry.
1. Braid each MT strap (like you would a wrap) leave about 30cm unbraided (just enough so that when you flip the straps over you shoulder you can just reach the end behind your back). You can do this sitting in the car, or before you leave the house 2. Tie MT around your waist (the braided section will no mean the straps are short and not dangling on the ground)
3. Pop baby in MT
4. Flip one MT shoulder strap over your shoulder, reach behind you back with the opposite hand and grab the end.
5. Pull the end to ‘unbraid’ the strap and bring it around and under baby’s bottom as you normally would. Tighten the strap stand by strand if you have wrap straps.
6. Repeat with the other strap and tie off how ever you prefer.
7. Enjoy what ever you planned to do with clean, dry MT shoulder straps!
I love mei tai's but the long straps can make them annoying to carry about with no baby in it. Here's a way to fold up your mei tai in a way which creates a useful handle which makes it easy to sling your mei tai over your shoulder when you are out and about or to hang up for storage. This will work for any mei tai with a hood. The mei tai bellow has a hoodie hood. A flat hood will give you the neatest bundle but other hood styles work fine as long as it has ties. This will work for a half buckle too or any carrier with long straps.
Place your mei tai reverse side up. Fold your straps toward the centre of your mei tai, leaving one shoulder strap free.
Fold the remaining strap into a loop and knot at the base of the shoulder.
Roll up the body of the carrier firmly.
Roll the hood tightly leaving the ties free.
Tie the hood ties to your looped shoulder strap.
Ready to go!
Toddler size Natibaby Dandelions with a panel of silk Zara She on the opposite side . I originally wanted to make this for summer but it is now almost winter! Nevermind, my toddler in enjoying it anyway. He is two years and five months. I'm happy he still lets me carry him sometimes. He is Mr Independant lately!
My mei tai's, half buckles, and full buckles vary in how they fit and how easy they are to modify to fit different sized children. I don't recommend wearing too big a size in half buckle/full buckle. Ideally a mei tai should also be the correct size but they are much easier to modify to fit than the other styles so can fit a wider size range. Mei Tai's and half buckles have no darts in the smaller sizes (so your baby will be held close to your body) but the toddler size does. Darts allow a wider/deeper seat without having to make the whole carrier wider and tend to make the whole carrier fit a bit bigger. Carriers with darts tend to hold your baby slightly away from your body (which transfers the weight mostly to your hips) so I have added darts to all my full buckles to help keep the weight off your shoulders since you cannot offset this weight by tyiing the shoulder straps as you can in a mei tai/half buckle.
If you have Flared Straps (padded to wrap) on your carrier you can use the spread out wrap part of the straps the extend the width of the seat for a child who has begun to outgrow it. It is not essential for a toddler to be knee to knee by the way (one of my daughter was happily carried occasionally up to five years old in a standard size carrier) but knee to knee does tend to be more comfortable and allows a better weight distribution for wearer and wearree.
Sizing is a guide only and is based on my average sized children plus some customer feedback I am always looking for more feedback so if you have any thoughts on sizing I would love to hear from you!
In general if your baby is on the smaller side of average you may get a longer use out of a particular size or if your child is at the top of the charts it may be outgrown sooner.
Quick size guide - if you baby is under a year old size 1 is best, if you baby is over a year size 2 is recommended, and if your baby is at least 18 months then choose toddler. Prefer a mei tai that will you can use across a large age range? - choose size 2 (standard). Want more detail? See below!
Size 1- baby size - from newborn to young toddler. Adjustable base option available (on custom carriers) for legs out carry from an early age. Click on the link for action photos and dimensions. This design has a curved top edge and straight sides but a straight top edge option is available.
Size 2- standard size - suitable for both babies and toddlers. This size has a wider and taller body to support the weight of your older baby and toddler well. Curved top edge for extra head/back support. This size fits best from around 6-8 months but can be used for younger babies with modifications. To use with a young baby the bottom can be rolled up to make it shorter and cinched with a ribbon to make it narrower or baby can be carried with legs froggied inside the carrier. The body is also slightly contoured so when you roll the bottom to make the mei tai shorter for a baby it will be narrower as well allowing a small baby to be more comfortably legs out. The mei can be used legs out (with the bottom rolled) from around 4-5 months. This size mei tai suits babies up to around 2-3 years.
Size 3 - toddler size - This carrier is taller and slightly wider than size 2, with seat darts for a deeper seat. This size fits from at least 18 months to around 3-4 years. Curved top edge and straight sides.
Mei Tais are the most versatile in how they fit. They will fit all sized wearers although if you are plus size you may like extra long straps for tying tibetan or if you are petite (less than a 23" waist) you may prefer petite waist padding to get your waist strap as tight as you like.
Mei Tais are easy to modify for a small baby by rolling the waist band to reduce height or by cinching the base with a ribbon to reduce width for legs out. Mei tai's can be worn apron or non apron style (wearing non apron will increase the height and wearing apron will reduce it). I can also add an adjustable base to your carrier which means you can adjust the width and the waistband will always lie nice and flat and it's easy to roll if you need to too.
The smallest size mei tai I make is 15" as I feel this is fairly easy to modify to fit a newborn and will not be outgrown too soon. A 14" carrier is a better fit for a very small baby and I did use this originally as my baby size but I found that my small to average daughter outgrew it by 12 months. I can make this size on request though if you don't need your carrier to be suitable for toddler wearing.
Please note baby and standard size mei tais have no darts to allow a close fit. I can make these sizes with darts on request but bear in mind they will fit slightly differently (in general they will fit bigger).
Half buckles are not as flexible as mei tai's in sizing and are meant to be worn non apron style. Like a mei tai you can roll the waist and wear apron style but it will sit a little diffferently. Like mei tai's this style of carrier is reversible - just remove the buckles and rethread the opposite way. Small babies can be worn froggied or with the base rolled and cinched (for legs out).
Although half buckles are designed to be worn non-apron style t is still possible to comfortably roll the waist to shorten the carrier or to wear apron style since the waist is padded rather than structured which can let you use the carrier sooner with a smaller baby. Baby size (size 1) will fit from newborn (with legs froggied in or with base rolled and cinched for young babies) until 18 months. An adjustable base in recommend for babies under four months old. You will need to roll the waist for a better fit for babies younger than 4-5 months in a legs out carry. Standard size (size 2) will fit best from around 8-10 months until around 2-3 years. Toddler size fits from around 18 months (small to average sized toddlers will fit best in this size from 2 years.
Measurements for half buckles - The length of the waist belt is 73cm including buckles, but I can make that smaller or longer if you need it. The length of the padded section is 63cm.
Please note baby and standard size mei tais have no darts to allow a close fit. I can make these sizes with seat darts on request but bear in mind they will fit slightly differently (in general they will fit bigger).
Full Buckle/Buckle Tai
Full buckles are the most convenient style of carrier to use but least flexible style sizing wise so I have added another sizing option (infant) to suit for smaller babies. You can cinch base with ribbon if the base is too wide but young babies cannot be carried with legs froggied. Babies under a year fit best in infant/baby size. 18 months is really the minimum age for toddler size (unless your child is very tall) as the body panel is quite tall. Small to average size toddlers will fit best in toddler size from around 2 years and will generally not fit comfortably before this.
Infant (35.5cm x 37cm/14" x 14.5") 4 months - 18 months
Baby/In between (38cm x 38cm/ 15"x 15") 6 months - 2 years
Standard (40.5cm x 42cm/16" x 16.5") 10 months - 2.5 years
Petite Toddler/ In between (43cm x 43cm/ 17"x17") 18 months - 3 years
Toddler (46cm x 46cm /18" x 18") - 2- 4 years
Preschool (48cm x 50cm) 19" x 20" - 3 years - 5 years
Standard Strap (16"/40cm) fits from 158cm to 180cm tall, Australian dress size 10 - 16. If you are outside this size range you may need petite or extra long straps. Petite straps are 14"/35cm and 18"/46cm for extra long. Fit adjusters/adjustable strap is available.
The adjustable base and height option added to on infant or baby size carrier will make your carrier suitable for a smaller baby than stated above. Babies vary in height so some babies may fit in the carrier sooner or later than others - just bear in mind that babies under four months must be well supported in the carrier with no slumping for optimal positioning.
You can choose use a shorter height size to suit a baby who likes arms out or to share between siblings (a toddler and preschooler for example). Some popular combinations are toddler width and standard height or preschool width and toddler height.
Flared Straps are my version of padded to wrap straps. Straps that start off with a padded section and then flare out to a wrap strap. They are most often found on wrap conversions but this style of strap can also be found on mei tais made from cotton duck or linen. You can tie the straps in all the ways shown in my insturctions but you can also spread them across baby's bum for additional support. It's very easy to do! Follow these steps for nicely spread out and tensioned straps every time.
Put your carrier on and get your baby onto your back using your preferred method. I like to hip scoot. I am using a half buckle in this demonstration. Clip the waist belt on and let the carrier hang behind you. Hold your baby on your hip, then scoot your baby around to your back. Using the straps pull the body of the carrier over your baby. Keep on hand on baby until baby is secure.
Pull your straps straight into the air and bounce a little (this seats your baby deeper into the carrier).
Bring the straps over your shoulders and pull them towards the floor. Hold one strap between your knees and bring the other over your arm and down to pass over baby's leg.
As you bring the strap over baby's leg hold it by the top edge and pass it across baby's leg and back keeping your arm and your top rail high. Pass the top rail to your opposite hand.
Pass the strap over baby's leg keeping it spread out.
Lift baby's leg over the rail so the strap is now bunched under baby's legs. If you skip this step and only pass the strap under you will loose tension.
Repeat for the other side and tie in front.
My niece is staying with us for a few days over the school holidays so we decided to go to the Fairy Park at Anakie. It's a nice place to go with little kids. The girls liked the animated fairy tale scenes. Although it is advertised as pram friendly the path between the displays is quite steep in places (the path winds up a hill leading to a castle on the top). I remembered this from last time so I didn't even consider bringing a stroller.
On the way home we picked some strawberries for dessert.
And finally this is another reason why my sewing is a bit slow in the school holidays! (Older children forgot to close the pantry door)
My children (and friend) helping to wash walls as part of our spring cleaning. My youngest is hanging out in the sling and feels part of the action but isn't in the way or in danger of crawling out to the road. Babywearing is great. Without it it would be very hard to get anything done!
Here is the first photo of the second half buckle I ever made. It has a structured waist - my toddler was too heavy for it and the waist would fold although it was still comfortable (I have since found a foam that holds up better). I found it in the bottom of my cupboard and decided to try it out with my 10 month old. It was super comfy! - and it still comes with sleepy dust!
A photo with my then two year old when I first made the sling.
This the first buckle I ever made, also with a structured waist. The waist is a one piece waist. I am working on a three piece structured waist which will pack up smaller. I like to be able to offer lots of options to customize your carrier. The structured waist is the same shape as the padded waist I offer now. I tried 3 different waists on this carrier before I decided which shape I liked. I tried deeply curved, slightly curved, and straight (with a slightly curved bottom edge). I liked the straight waist best and that is the waist shape I offer on my current half buckles.
Here is the padded waist which is standard on my current half buckles. It is very comfy too. And can you tell purple is my favourite colour?
I love to sew. I have five curious and active kids who keep me busy!