This carrier is based on an East Asian traditional baby carrier which is still in use today. Meh dai (Cantonese) or bei dai (Mandarin) are rectangles of fabric with straps at the top and bottom.
Meh dai means “back carrying strap” where “meh/bei” means “carry on your back,” and “dai” means strap. You might also see this type of carrier referred to as a ‘mei tai’, however that term is now considered out of date and disrespectful, because it is an inaccurate transliteration.
What is a meh dai?
Meh dais are tie-on panel carriers. The rectangular shaped panel supports the bottom and back of the baby. One pair of tie straps fastens at the waist whilst the other goes over the shoulders and then passes over and under the child’s knees before being tied off. They benefit from a simple design .
Advantages of meh dais
Meh dais are, usually, fully fabric carriers, which makes them easy to wash. Whereas car doors and washing machines can damage buckles, with a fully fabric meh dai, less can go wrong.
Meh dais can be used from birth to big kid
Meh dais are usually sized by panel. For example, a baby sized meh dai will have a smaller panel than a toddler sized. However, the strap lengths are likely to be similar. Meh dais can be used with children of all ages, from newborn to preschool age, and beyond. However, you may need to change between a meh dai with a smaller panel for a newborn and a larger panel for an older child.
Fit different sized adults
Because you tie the straps of a meh dai around yourself and your baby, they are extremely versatile. On the other hand on buckle carriers the buckle is a fixed point and the strap padding restricts tightening; this means they only fit people who fall within given parameter. You can use a meh dai for adults of totally different heights, frame size and clothing size and get a perfect fit. This means that it is possible for most people to get good supportive carries in a meh dai. They are great if different sized adults regularly carry one baby, and they want one carrier that fits everyone.
Choice of fabric type
Meh dais may be made from woven wrap fabric. (Above left) Or they may be made from standard woven cotton fabrics and cotton twill or corduroy. (Above right)
Different styles of strap
You can get meh dais with straps to fit your preferences.
For example, with wide straps that you can spread on your shoulders and back to distribute weight. You can also spread them over baby’s bottom when reinforcing the carry at the knees. On the other hand cotton twill straps tend to be narrower and double layered, which can feel easier to handle if wide lengths of fabric are overwhelming.
The straps may have some padding at the waist band and shoulders, such as on a Hoppediz HopTyei; or they may have no padding, as with the Didymos DidyTai. Some people find padding makes the carrier more comfortable, whilst others prefer to spread the straps so that they cup the shoulder. The Fidella FlyTai combine both spreadable wrap fabric with a little padding. Some meh dais are made with hoods, and some without.
There are many makers who make bespoke meh dai carriers, so you can buy one custom made to your specification.
Disadvantages of meh dais
Different sizes for different ages
Long straps can be a trip hazard
When tying your meh dai, long straps can trail on the ground. Be careful you do not trip whilst putting a child in a meh dai. If you are not walking around whilst putting the carrier on, this is usually easily avoidable.
Make sure you tuck away any excess length that could be a trip hazard when walking.
How to use a meh dai?
Front carry with a meh dai/bei dai (formerly known as mei tai) (wrap conversion, padded to wrap straps) made of an Oscha Japanese Knot Chisaii Fern wrap.
Secure Hip Scoot and Back Carry with a Half Buckle (or Meh Dai) with Tibetan finish, using an Ocah Half Buckle in between size (17in) made from Shui Long Lunare wrap fabric, and also how to get baby out again
Robin’s Hip Carry with a Half Buckle or Meh Dai (here, using an Ocah Half Buckle in between size (17in) made from Shui Long Lunare wrap fabric)
A good year-round carrier
Meh dais can be a great warm weather option. The panel is open at the sides allowing breezes and airflow in to the baby and wearer. Layers of clothing can be added under, or over, the carrier in cooler weather to keep everyone warm.
Useful in pregnancy
Meh dais can be tied in such a way as the waistband can be undone without compromising the support, which means they are often popular carriers for people carrying older babies during pregnancy for people who find pressure above or below the bump from a waistband uncomfortable.
You can use a hip scoot to get the child onto your back, tie the Meh dai, reinforcing the seat by passing the shoulder straps over and under each knee in turn and then untie the waistband. This is often referred to as tying onbuhimo style podaegi style, as podaegis have no waistband and are similarly given structure by using the shoulder straps to create the seat. For more information on podaegis see our article All about podaegis.
Meh dai tied below the bump. Sarah Smith, Greenwich Slings/South East London Slingers