Meh Dai is a traditional Chinese baby carrier; in its simplest form, a mei dai 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 offerings.
To read more about traditional carrier names, please see this excellent resource.
Why Meh Dai?
Meh dais 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. Meh dais are a good middle ground for someone who likes the custom fit of tying that a wrap offers but wants the speed and ease of a soft structured carrier.
Types of Meh Dais
Meh dais can be loosely categorized by strap style, waist style, and body type.
- 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.
- 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 meh dai 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). Meh dai 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 meh dais 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 meh dai or removed when not in use. Some are flat style and others designed like a sweatshirt hood.
- Body Styles. Some meh 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.
Can I DIY a Meh Dai?
You can although this is not an appropriate project for a weekend warrior seamstress. It seems simple enough to construct a mei tai; however, even a skilled seamstress needs to also understand the mechanics of a carrier (where the stress points are for example) to construct a safe one.
There are tutorials available on the web. If you are interested in taking on a DIY meh dai, we suggest reviewing multiple tutorials to find the best and safest design elements. Consider buying a meh dai PDF pattern on Etsy.
Which Brand and Style Should I Choose?
There is no one answer to this question as each brand offers slightly different features and fit. In general though, carriers with un-padded waists are easiest to use with smaller infants.
Most wearers find padded waist meh dais (which also tend to be slightly larger bodied) to be more comfortable with older infants and toddlers. Many wearers will switch meh dais as their child moves into toddlerhood.
My Favorite Meh Dai Products
Wearing a Newborn in a Meh Dai: Front Carries
The meh dai is probably the carrier I recommend most for newborns – it’s perfect for those who don’t care for the idea of wrapping (or just want something that doesn’t involve 4+ meters of fabric!) but who don’t have babies large enough to use most buckle carriers without an infant insert or harness (or who just don’t like the fit of buckles). Meh dais are compact, easy to care for, easy enough to make if you sew, and just comfy.
What meh dai should I choose for a newborn?
As with all carriers, there’s no one “best” brand. In general though, meh dais with unpadded waists and smaller body sizes work better for newborns, particularly if you want to wear your newborn or young baby legs out (which is my preference). If you are buying a meh dai specifically for a newborn or younger baby, I would suggest getting one that has a narrower body and less structure (check out Infantino Sash Mei Tai or BabyHawk Meh Dai).
So what do I do with this thing?
Unpadded waist meh dais are worn “apron style” – that is you tie them on like an apron with the outside of the meh dai (they are reversible so it’s ok if you mess this up!) facing towards you and hanging down like an apron. Baby goes in the carrier which comes up between baby’s legs. The straps cross behind you and come back to the front over baby’s legs. You can either tie under baby’s bum or bring the straps back under baby’s legs and tie behind you.
As with any baby carrier, it’s important to practice before taking your show on the road. If you haven’t already, check out our Newborn Babywearing Safety Basics before trying out your new meh dai skills.
Wearing a Newborn in a Meh Dai: High Back Carries
I’ve shared one way you can get a small baby high on your back using a woven wrap – Rucksack Style Back Wrap. If you aren’t into wrapping, a meh dai is another great choice for newborn/small baby back carries (for other recommended carriers, check out our newborn / young baby carriers guide).
Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking about a meh dai for your young baby.
- While there are many fabulous padded waist meh dais on the market, I think a non-padded waist is a better choice for a small baby. You don’t really need the extra support a padded waist offers and a non-padded waist allows you to cinch the bottom of the carrier to allow baby to go legs out sooner. You certainly can use a small sized padded waist meh dai with a newborn, but you’ll probably need to stick to the froggy leg position for a while. A non-padded waist meh dai is also easy to wear higher on your back as a padded waist is meant to be worn at your waist or hips.
- If the body of your meh dai is too tall for your baby, simply roll it a time or two to make it the right height. If you meh dai doesn’t have a built in cinching mechanism, you can use a ribbon.
- Meh dais often come with hoods or headrests to support baby’s head.
- Because you can wear a meh dai high on your back, you can back carry much earlier than you can with a buckle carrier. Remember, a newborn/small baby should always be worn high – her head should be at the nape of your neck. Most buckle carriers are designed to sit low on your hips so you can’t get a young baby high enough to be safe. I also don’t feel comfortable recommending a froggy legged back carry in a meh dai so you’ll want something you can cinch if need be.
- Meh dais are a nice alternative for someone who isn’t a fan of wrapping. True it does involve tying (although that also allows for a custom fit), but they are quite simple to get on and may feel more secure for someone nervous about back wrapping.
And now, without further ado, here’s the video tutorial of a meh dai high back carry with a young baby.
Remember, always use a spotter (or practice over the bed) until you are very comfortable with the carry. Practicing in front of a mirror can help too. You’ll be a pro in no time!
Why Onbuhimo? Onbuhimo Pros
Onbuhimos are typically suitable for toddlers and older children who have sufficient neck and head control. Onbuhimo carriers have several advantages:
- Quick and Easy. Onbuhimos are known for their simplicity and speed. They are quick to put on, making them convenient for parents who need to get their child in and out of the carrier efficiently. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with wiggly or impatient toddlers who may not have the patience for a more intricate wrapping process.
- Unpoppable Seat. Onbuhimos have an unpoppable seat design, which means that the seat created for the child does not come undone easily. This feature provides extra security and stability, ensuring that the child remains comfortably seated and supported while being carried.
- Waist Belt-Free Design. Unlike many other carriers, Onbuhimos do not have a waist belt. This feature is advantageous for individuals who prefer not to have pressure or weight on their waist, including expectant mothers who may find it uncomfortable to have pressure on their growing bellies.
Onbuhimo carriers have a few limitations. Here are some cons to consider:
- Limited Use. Onbuhimos are primarily designed for older babies and toddlers who can sit independently. They may not provide adequate support for younger infants or babies who lack neck and head control. Additionally, Onbuhimos are typically designed for back carries only, which limits the carrying positions available compared to carriers that offer front and hip carries as well.
- Panel Size Dependent on Child. The size of the Onbuhimo carrier’s panel is often dependent on the size of the child. This means that as your baby grows into toddlerhood or preschooler age, you may need to upgrade to a larger-sized carrier to accommodate their increased height and weight.
- Less Versatility. Compared to some other types of carriers, Onbuhimos offer less versatility in terms of carrying options and weight distribution. They are primarily designed for back carries.
While Onbuhimos may have limitations, they can still be a great choice for older, independently sitting babies.
What is the difference between Meh Dai carrier and Onbuhimo?
The Meh-Dai has no buckles at all and can be tied individually, while the Onbuhimo has no hip belt, which allows the baby to be carried up and down very quickly.
My Favorite Onbuhimo Products
- Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo
- Lenny Buckle Onbuhimo
- Onbuhimo Luna
- DidyGo by Didymos
- Onbuhimo City of Stars
- Splash 2.0 Onbuhimo
- Fidella Onbuhimo