The Mei Tai and Podaegi (narrow style) are the two Asian carriers covered in Wearing Your Baby. In this section you will learn how both are used with a newborn through to a toddler.
The Mei tai originates in China. Although there are many variations it is generally a rectangular piece of material with a long strap coming from each corner. Traditionally a baby is carried on the back of a mother or grandmother so they can continue to work. The straps were simply twisted and tucked.
In this clip Mandy’s mother demonstrates with her granddaughter how she wore her Mandy and her other children in a traditional Chinese Mei Tai.
They are worn ‘apron style’ meaning that you hang them upside down against your body and tie the shorter waste straps on like an apron before lifting the body over your baby and straps over your shoulders. Today newborn babies are often carried on their parents’ fronts with their feet inside the Mei tai or the base is scrunched or tied to provide ideal support from knee to knee.
Generally the fabric used today is a lot thicker, straps are often lightly padded and wider, some so wide that they can be spread wrap style over the baby providing more support. Wide straps may offer greater support for your baby but make tying the Mei Tai a bit trickier for you.
Some modern Mei Tai have a buckle clip on the waist straps. The Mei Tai is what the modern day soft structured carrier design was based on. The buckle may be quicker and easier than tying but can make it uncomfortable to wear in some styles, such as high on your chest when you are pregnant with another baby or simply want to use a high back carry.
The Mei Tai does involve wrapping straps and ensuring you have positioned them correctly for you and your baby’s comfort and safety. They are relatively simple to use with the most difficult skill being a simple double knot. They distribute the weight well for your comfort and are versatile allowing you to wear your baby on your front, back and hip. They are also reasonably priced with a new Mei Tai costing as little as $85NZ. With a sewing machine and a bit of knowledge of how to use it you can make your own Mei Tai. Instructions can be found online. Here’s one example
The Mei tai demonstrations include:
Front carry with a newborn and older baby and variations for the front carry
Back carries: High back carry with a newborn baby and a standard back carry for an older baby as shown here
Podaegi is the name for a traditional Korean baby carrier. It translates as blanket. Other cultures also used a variation of the Podaegi. The Hmong people of Laos and other areas of Asian used a narrow style Podaegi whereas the Korean Podaegi is a wide blanket. Both the narrow and wide Podaegi have long straps coming from the top corners.
The Podaegi style carrier used in Laos is made for a particular baby. When that baby has outgrown the carrier it is discarded or sold to tourists. Each baby has his/her own carrier.
The Podaegi style carrier we use in Wearing Your Baby is narrow in style with average width, slight padded straps. There are Podaegi/wrap hybrids, wear the straps can be spread as wide as 30-40cm to provide more support.
Slightly trickier to use than the Mei Tai, but even more versatile the Podaegi blanket is tucked and the straps wrapped and tied to secure the baby. It can be used on your front or back with a newborn baby through to a toddler.
If the length of material of a wrap around sling overwhelms you but you like to versatility and artistry of strapping your baby on you will probably enjoy using the Podaegi. It is one of the few carriers that allows for a secure torso, which is a great feature if you have shoulder problems. It also allows you to carry your baby high on your back if you have an older baby who likes to see everything!
It has a similar learning curve to the wrap around sling. Not the simplest carrier to use but one of the more versatile.
The Podaegi demonstrations include:
Two front carries
One is the standard front carry (right) and the other a torso/shoulder variation (above). Both can be used with a newborn – older baby.
Two back carries
A high back carry with a newborn and older baby and the torso/shoulder variation with an older baby.