Mei Tai 101: Using a Mei Tai With Your Newborn

I’ve written before about using a mei tai as a way to back carry your young infant, but it occurs to me we skipped over the part where I tell you how to use a mei tai for a front carry  - so let’s fix that!  The mei tai 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).  Mei tais are compact, easy to care for, easy enough to make if you sew, and just comfy.   Disclaimer…I may also be a tad partial to mei tais as a Babyhawk was my very first carrier…I blame them for my addiction!

meitai 211x300 Mei Tai 101:  Using a Mei Tai With Your Newborn

Not quite a newborn but somehow I have no front carry newborn mei tai pictures decent enough to post!

What is a mei tai?  Mei tais are traditional Chinese carrier – simply a square piece of fabric with 4 straps.  Modern mei tais come with a variety of features – you can read more about those on the mei tai page of our babywearing guide.

What mei tai should I choose for a newborn?  As with all carriers, there’s no one “best” brand.  In general though, mei tais 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 mei tai specifically for a newborn or younger baby, I would suggest getting one that has a narrower body and less structure.

So what do I do with this thing?  Unpadded waist mei tais are worn “apron style” – that is you tie them on like an apron with the outside of the mei tai (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.  Clear right?  Probably not…so here’s a video!

 

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 mei tai skills.  Want to make your own mei tai?  Check out our mei tai tutorial!  Happy Babywearing!

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15 comments to Mei Tai 101: Using a Mei Tai With Your Newborn

  • Yachen Choi

    Thank you so much for your posts on babywearing!! I just had my baby boy on August 2nd and was looking for solutions to wear him as my body was just aching from carrying him without a carrier. I loooove the BabyHawk Mei Tai and have been using it to carry him from the moment it arrived in the mail when he was 6 weeks old to date :) Still need to figure out how to carry him on my back using the Mei Tai, I watched your video but still feels like he can’t sit high enough on my back for me to feel comfortable carrying him in the back. It’ll be my project next week to figure it out.
    Anyways, just wanted to say thanks! Wish I can have you come to our community and teach us all the different babywearing options :) I currently live on a military base overseas and we had 2 babywearing volunteer instructors, but sadly one just recently moved and another is leaving soon. I’m super thankful for volunteers like you!

    • Meredith

      So glad you find my site helpful! The Babyhawk was my first carrier – my gateway drug ;) And it’s still one of my favorites to recommend for newborns! The back carry just takes a bit of practice (keep in mind I’d been doing it for a long while by the time I made that video!). You might even try with a stuffed animal to get a feel for how to get baby high enough on your back.

  • GREAT VIDEO!!! I will be referring mamas to this all the time! It’s so hard to explain things online without being able to show people and this video is perfect for the questions I see on forums and on-line communities! Thanks!

  • Rita

    Thanks you so much for posting this video, it was very helpful! I have a MT and a new baby on the way and was clueless how to make it work with a newborn.

  • Brittney

    How long would you recommend is the longest a baby would be comfortable like this? We are planning a trip to the fair a month after baby is born. We usually go for a good 4-6 hours, and we are really trying to avoid buying a double stroller.

    • Meredith

      Sorry for the very tardy reply but for anyone else reading…I’ve definitely worn my babies the majority of the day. Unless baby seems unhappy, it’s totally fine! Most babies would rather be snuggled with mama (or daddy!) at that age anyway.

  • Tara

    Thanks for this! I didn’t feel comfortable carrying my babies in the Mei Tai as newborns, but as they got older it became my favorite carrier. I decided to do some research and figure out the newborn carry. Thanks to your video and a very compliant stuffed turtle :) I’m pretty sure I’ve got it figured out and will be able to use it with my next one (with just a little bit of practice). The tips for tying higher, rolling the waistband and using a ribbon to cinch the body if necessary were really helpful!

  • Kate

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I am wondering though, where do a newborns legs go if you wear them “legs in”? In order for them to sit on their bottom, would they have their knees bent and feet even with their bottom, like a frog? I worry about hip dysplasia with the “legs out” style, how do you do that carry without having them straddle your body?

    • Meredith

      Essentially, yes, if legs in their legs are tucked up in a sit squat position like a frog (thus the froggie legs terms that’s often used). But you want to make sure baby’s weight is on her bum and not her feet. With the legs out position, it’s actually easier to get a good leg position for the hips. Baby’s legs don’t straddle the wearer; they tuck into the wearer’s tummy. The point at which a child is actually straddling the wearer is going to vary depending on the size of the child and the size of the wearer.

      Also consider a newborn’s natural hip/leg/knee position when you are changing a diaper (and they are laying on their back) – their knees naturally drop out and up – that’s what you want them to do in a carrier.

  • Laura

    This video was so helpful. I was struggling to get my newborn in my babyhawk and can see from the video that I was doing a lot of things wrong! Now I will try it again!

  • Ilyse

    I love this, thank you! And I have to ask, the carrier you’ve got in the ‘not quite a newborn’ photo on the right is gorgeous. What is it? :)

  • Whitney

    Is there a way to wear a newborn froggy-legged without tying a knot behind her back and causing a pressure point or disturbing the natural curve of baby’s back?
    Would making an X with the ties behind the baby’s back and then tying them in a knot behind mother’s back solve the problem? Or bringing the ties behind baby’s back and twisting them a few times to form more of a line down baby’s back rather than just a single knot in the middle and then wrapping behind mother’s back and tying in a knot help?

    • Meredith

      One of the big reasons I like legs out (with the modifications suggested here) from birth is because it’s hard to avoid the knot behind the back problem. If you have a froggy legged baby in a MT and just tie under the bum, you have to really keep an eye on the sides to make sure they aren’t gapping in a way that would let baby slip out. That’s why the instructions for a legs in baby have you tying behind baby’s back. I don’t think either of the methods you suggested really change the pressure on baby’s spine. BUT given that it would be far worse for baby to fall out of the carrier, it’s still preferable (if less than ideal) to tie behind baby’s back. But ideally, baby would just be worn legs out. If baby does want to be legs in (many actually would rather be legs out from birth), a ring sling or a wrap allow it without the knot issue. And both of those are a better option for a tiny newborn (who is more likely to want to be legs in) than a mei tai is. Hope that helps!

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