For most people if they have never worn a mei tai or baby carrier it appears that the most tricky part is how to put on the carrier with the baby. For mothers of ethnic tribes living in China who use mei tai or baby carrier as their way of parenting, this task is considered as a natural motion and just another part of daily life. They do not seek and would certainly politely refuse any offer of assistance with this task.
The baby carrier is placed inside up either on the bed or any available safe surface. The baby is placed on the carrier, facing up. The mother tightly tucks the straps of the carrier into her right hand so that the baby is then securely wrapped in the carrier. Then she leans over dropping her left shoulder and with her right arm slings the baby and carrier over her left shoulder and onto her back. While still leaning over she very quickly secures the straps.
Step-by-step guide to wear a Chinese mei tai or baby carrier
1. Lay the carrier on a flat surface. Place the baby on the carrier so the top of the baby’s head is roughly even with the top of the carrier. Fold the soft bottom panel up over the baby’s feet.
2. Put the straps over your shoulders and cross them behind your back, so that each hand is holding the opposite strap.
3. Lean forward towards the baby, pulling on the straps and taking up the slack.
4. Pick up the baby and the carrier together and, while supporting the baby’s bottom, continue pulling the straps tight. (Don’t worry if the bottom panel becomes untucked at this stage.)
5. When the straps are comfortably snug around your shoulders, cross them in front of you, just under the baby’s bottom. Check to make sure the baby’s arms and hands are tucked inside the carrier and not twisted.
6. Keeping the tension on the straps to support the baby, wrap them around your waist and behind your back.
7. Tie the two straps together in a single knot behind your back…
8. and tie again to make a double knot. (The knot should be secure enough so it won’t come undone by itself, but not so tight that you can’t undo it!)
9. Reach in through the sides of the carrier and lift the baby up to make sure he or she is placed comfortably. Support the baby’s bottom with your hand and pull on the back of the carrier to settle the baby back into position. Check that the straps aren’t too tight, and adjust them so that they support the baby’s weight. (They should rest just under the baby’s bottom, so as not to place pressure on the baby’s back or knees.)
10. Check the position of the soft bottom panel. If it has come loose, tuck it back around baby’s feet to form a pocket between you and the baby. Check that the baby’s legs and feet are in a comfortable position.
11. Once the baby is settled, hook your thumbs through the shoulder straps and pull them down over your shoulder blades. This distributes the baby’s weight more evenly over your back.
12. Finished! The baby is held upright, with straight legs, but without taking any weight on his or her feet. The baby’s neck is supported as his or her head rests on the back of the carrier. (If you are walking fast, it helps to place one hand on the baby’s head so it doesn’t bounce with your footsteps.) The curved side panels sit snugly against your body, protecting the baby from the wind, and offering relative privacy if you need to feed the baby in public.
13. My son is now three months old, and he loves being able to peer over the edge of the carrier and watch what is going on. He feels very safe and secure there (though he can’t quite understand why we want to take all these photos of him, rather than taking him for a walk!)
14. The carrier also works well to rock the baby off to dreamland. This photograph was not purposely staged – by the time I had walked back into the house, he was sound asleep! If you untie the carrier carefully and support the baby against your chest as you pull the carrier away (don’t forget to untuck the bottom panel first) the baby will often stay sleeping peacefully long after you have stopped carrying him or her.
I hope you have found this guide useful, and that you get as much pleasure out of using your mei tai or baby carrier!
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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