Asian Inspired Carriers
Updated: Feb 25
Finally spring has sprung and with that we want to highlight some carrier styles that are very near and dear to our hearts as they are inspired by traditional Asian carriers. We are talking about the Meh Dai, also known as Beh Dai and onbuhimos!
Meh Dais are a wonderful carrier that bridges the gap between the completely unstructured wrap and the very structured buckle carrier. They consist of a rectangular panel with straps at each corner, giving them only slightly less structure than a buckle carrier but the fabric manipulation versatility of a wrap . The two lower straps are typically shorter and are worn around the waist – like tying on an apron. The two longer ones go around the shoulders and can be tied in a variety of ways to carry baby on the front, side, or back.
We love meh dais and their versatility. The carrier can be easily modified to wear a newborn as well as a toddler. And they can also easily be used by two different wearers without worrying about adjusting anything previously set by another wearer. The panel offers a light weight feel making this carrier an excellent option for the warmer months as well.
So which one do you get and does it matter? Can you really wear baby to toddler in all of them? These are some great questions to consider when exploring this carrier type. There are some wonderful toddler and even preschooler sized meh dais which have a much larger panel that cannot be comfortably cinched down for a newborn but all others that are standard sized and can in fact be modified to fit a newborn baby.
All meh dais also have slight variations in terms of panel size, strap padding, and strap width. Some meh dais come with panels that can be cinched down, making them smaller for smaller babies as needed but even the larger ones that don’t have cinching strings sewn in can be folded up in a way to accommodate a small baby. Padding and strap width are options that can change the comfort for the wearer. Some caregivers may find the padding is helpful in distributing weight around their waist and on their shoulders,others may find it bulky and uncomfortable. The straps can be narrow or wide (the wider ones are also called “wrap straps”)which allows for further comfort refining. Narrow straps make the meh dai very light on fabric, appealing to wearers in warmer weather. Wider straps add comfort with the ability to spread weight as well as adjust strap positioning by cupping it around the shoulder. Wider waist straps can also add belly support during pregnancy!
It’s also so important to be mindful of the way we are pronouncing Meh Dai/ Beh Dai as well. This website has some incredible information including infographics which are most helpful in not only visual carrier comparison but also provides us with the knowledge to use the proper carrier name. There are also video links as well that demonstrate the proper pronunciation. There are some companies that have previously renamed these carrier types to create a mix of the company name and part of the word Meh Dai. It’s important to remember to be mindful of this and to use the appropriate name. You can do so by saying the company’s name followed by Meh Dai rather than referring to the way the company has presented it. This will also help to further educate others on the importance of this carrier style and why its history and proper pronunciation is so important.
We have an array of amazing Meh Dai carriers both in narrow and wrap straps in many of our lending libraries. In fact recently Kol Kol has generously donated a beautiful wrap strap Meh Dai, "cinnamon", that currently is in our Brewster lending Library. We love it because it’s actually suitable, and can be easily adjusted for use from birth (as small as 3.5 kgs) and upwards of 15 kgs.
The next carrier type we would love to focus on is the onbuhimo. The word Onbuhimo means “back carrying strap” in Japanese. It is a waistless carrier and in modern styles comes in buckles, fabric loops and ring closures. It creates a nice high positioning for back wearing your child. They offer a minimalist feel with a quick seat and fastening and are amazing for quick ups. Different manufacturers will have set guidelines for weight requirements. They also can come in different sizes to fit standard through toddler and preschool sized.
It’s also important to point out that the onbuhimo should never be shortened. “Onbu” is actually a verb that refers to the act of carrying on the back, while “himo” means strap or rope. If you’re still unsure of the proper pronunciation this website under the onbuhimo infographic above offers a great video on how to pronounce this amazing carrier by its proper name.
In our Sullivan library Kol Kol has also generously donated to us a lovely and beautifully patterned onbuhimo "pinewoods". It’s suitable for use with a minimum height requirement of 28 inches and from 10-25 kgs.
While it can feel like there is a bit of a learning curve with some hands on help at any one of our Babywearing meetings we will be sure to offer the support you need to be acclimated with this carrier and comfortable using it both at and outside of meetings.
Have either a Meh Dai or an Onbuhimo at home? We would love for you to bring it to your next Babywearing meeting local to you! Each of our meeting locations offer various brands of a narrow strap Meh Dais, a wrap strap Meh Dais and Onbuhimos. Be sure to check the inventory of each location at Newyorkbabywearing.myturn.com
facebook.com/nybabywearing/events to view all upcoming meetings.
Can’t make it to a meeting but want to share the love for these carrier styles? Drop a picture in our chat page, facebook.com/groups/nybabywearing. We love seeing our group members showing off their favorite carrier styles or even trying something for the first time. As always, we are here for you for all of your Babywearing needs.
Several Meh Dai and Onbuhimo Brands
Peace, love and happy Babywearing to all
Blog post written by NYBW educators Anna Lopez and Anne Wetzel