August 8, 2013

Learning the Lingo, Part 2

Mei Tais and Soft Structured Carriers derive from traditional Asian carriers used by parents and caregivers. The basic form of these carriers are a rectangle of fabric with straps that come from the corners. The rectangle of fabric goes around the baby and the straps can be tied in various ways, with the baby either on the front, hip or back. 

In South West China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, mei tais are worn, with either a double or single strap, as are Hmong style carriers which are usually beautifully hand-embroidered. In Japan, onbuhimos were used, which are a wrap style carrier made from gauze, cotton, or wool, similar to a mei tai but with a narrower body style.The podaegi originates from Korea and can sometime be called a blanket carrier. 

I am going to concentrate on mei tais in this post. Today, variations have grown tremendously and this style of carrier adapts well to customization. The length and width of straps, appliques, hood or no hood are just some of the choices. Babyhawk, Kozy and ObiMama name just a few of mei tai (MT) manufacturers.

Some advantages of mei tais are:

  • baby's weight is distributed over both shoulders which can make carrying heavier babies and toddlers more comfortable
  • it is easy to use with many different carries
  • back carries are quick and easy to learn
  • there are many beautiful fabrics and it is easily customized

And a disadvantage:

  • Some people find them uncomfortable for long periods; that the straps may dig into shoulders. This be can solved by making sure that straps are kept flat (not twisted) along the entire length. 

Choosing a mei tai can be a little confusing at first. There are many options to choose from, I believe that the options that will affect the comfort of the carrier are the size of the body and the style and length of the straps. 

Body: Most mei tai bodies are available in two sizes, standard and toddler. There are manufacturers that make newborn and preschooler sized carriers too. These sizes are not industry standard and are different for each manufacturer so look into that when making your decision.

Straps: The length of straps is also a decision the manufacturer makes; however, many are now making plus and petite size straps in addition to the standard length. As you increase your level of customization, some makers also offer different style of straps. The most common is padded or not, which is a personal choice. Some people also like wider straps, feeling that this is spreads the weight across more of your back and shoulders.

Additional design features are also available; such as toy loops, hoods, knee padding, neck roll, etc. One feature I generally do appreciate is a hood. This can be used to shade baby's face on a sunny day or support a sleepy head.

A further expansion of the ABC (Asian baby carrier) is the soft structured or buckle carrier. Instead of tying the straps, buckles are used to secure the carrier to the adults body. Ergo, Beco and Boba are just a few of the popular soft structured carriers (SSC). Many of the custom features available for mei tais are also available; in fact may mei tai manufactures additionally offer a SSC version.

Buckle carriers are very popular as an easy, quick baby carrier. These are very good for a fast back carry too. They can require some adjusting at first but this can be accomplished yourself or with someone who has experience.

Mei tais and soft structured carriers are solid carriers and you can get a lot of use out of them. Our Facebook page is great community to get feedback about different vendors and styles. The KangaMama's lending library has several different mei tais and SSCs to try!

As always, please remember that safety comes first; check the seams and buckles before placing baby inside. Give one more bounce to tighten the straps and always remember that baby should be close enough to kiss. 

And now that you made it to the end, how about a contest?

Design a t-shirt contest

Your design must contain the words KangaMamas, Rhode Island, and Babywearing; other wise use your creative genius to design a shirt that helps spread the babywearing word!

How to enter…You can enter as many images as you like. Images must be in one of these formats JPG, PNG, TIF, TIFF, GIF, BMP or PSD and be 1000x1000 pixels. Email images to Images must be submitted by August 31, 2013. The leadership team will choose three to five images and those will be posted to Facebook for member voting. The image with the highest number of “likes” on September 7, 2013 will be declared the winner. The winner will receive a $30 gift certificate to Comfy Joey and a t-shirt.

A little bit of legalize…The design must be your own intellectual property and you must have the exclusive copyright and right of use. This is important otherwise we are not allowed to print your design. If your design gets printed, you grant us the exclusive right of use to print your design on textiles.