(Ok, we don’t really have meeting minutes, but I like alliteration.)
As usual, we had a great group of experienced babywearers and newbies at our August 1 meeting, the topic of which was Mei Tai Mayhem. Mei tais have been extremely popular carriers for our slingers, and with good reason: they distribute the baby’s weight to both of the adult’s shoulders as well as her hips and back, they work wonderfully for front carries from birth up, and they’re a particularly great way to learn back carries. (Sure, they work for hip carries too, but our slingers tend to prefer other carriers for hip carries.) What’s not to love?
We briefly talked about trends: Kozy introduced a westernized version of the traditional Chinese mei tai to the U.S. market in 2003, and its popularity sparked a babywearing revolution. Other U.S. manufacturers took the cue and introduced mei tais with various different design elements. Typically, these mei tais were designed to wear “apron style,” which means that you let the body of the mei tai hang down like an apron while you’re tying the waist straps, so that the body forms a seat for the baby when it’s pulled up.
At the moment, a lot of “hot” mei tais are made in Scandinavia and feature luxurious fabrics and particularly top-notch workmanship. The popularity of these “Scandi mei tais” doesn’t mean that the American mei tais are becoming less popular, though … mei tais in general are continuing to gain popularity, and now even Target offers a mei tai through its online store.
A current trend is to make mei tais designed to be worn “non-apron style,” which means that you tie the waist straps with the body of the mei tai coming straight up (instead of hanging down). These mei tais typically have padded waists similar to a soft structured carrier such as an Ergo or Beco. The waist padding provides structure and support so that the more hammock-style seat created by tying apron-style is not necessary.
As Kristen pointed out, the variety of available mei tai brands and style is a huge boon for consumers, because different people prefer different mei tai features. For example, I prefer the wide, flat, unpadded straps of Ball Baby mei tais; Kristen is a fan of the small body and padded straps of her favorite FreeHand. (Aside from us, however, Birmingham seems to be largely a BabyHawk town, as you can gather from our flickr album.)
Now, for the how-to wrapup:
Many vendors have excellent mei tai instructions, including Kozy, FreeHand, and BabyHawk. Remember that, for newborns, you must tie the straps behind the baby’s back, or wrap them around the baby’s back and tie them behind your back, in order to do two things: make sure the baby can’t fall out of the carrier, and support the baby’s back so the baby doesn’t slump into the chin-to-chest position, which restricts airflow. For more information about carrying a newborn in a baby carrier, read this article.