The most common mei tai question I hear is this one: How do I tie on the waist?
There are two ways to tie a mei tai waist: Apron Style and Non-Apron Style. I remember when I first heard this I was SO CONFUSED! But it’s actually pretty simple. Apron style is really just like an apron and non apron style is . . . well . . . not like an apron. Take a look:
Apron Style means that the mei tai is tied on just like an apron. You hold the carrier by the waist straps with the panel and shoulder straps hanging down. Face the decorative panel toward you, and tie the mei tai on at your waist. If there is a label on the inside of the mei tai, the label is now facing out.
When you are finished with the carry, it will look like this. The mei tai pictured is an Infantino Sash. The waist band of the carry is between the wearer and baby and the panel makes almost a J shape. The top of the J is the top of the panel and the bottom of the J is between the wearer and baby.
Non Apron Style:
The opposite of Apron Style is “Non-Apron Style” (awesome name right?). To tie non-apron style, you hold the mei tai by the waist straps with the panel and shoulder straps hanging down (just like in apron style). Then you fold the waist band toward you once. Now the waist band is sitting against your waist just like it would in a soft structured carrier. In Non-Apron style the waist band is right side up (rather than upside down as in aprons style).
When you are finished with the carry it will look like this. The mei tai pictured is a Girasol Mysol. See the waist band below the baby’s bottom? The waist band is not between the baby and wearer as it was in apron style.
Let’s see them side by side:
Apron Style (hanging straight down) is on the left. Non Apron style (with the waist band folded once toward the wearer) is on the right.
Compare the finished carry side by side:
In an apron style carry (left), the waist band is not visible from the finished carry. It is between the wearer and the baby. In an non-apron style carry, the waist band is visible from the finished carry, just below the baby.
So when do I tie apron style? or Non Apron Style?
Check the instructions for your mei tai. Your mei tai manufacturer has included instructions that show which way that particular mei tai should be tied. Most mei tais with unpadded waists include instructions for Apron Style tying. Most mei tais that have a structured/padded waist include instructions for non-apron style tying.
Are there any benefits to either method of tying?
Like anything, there are benefits to both. Everyone will have their own preferences and different methods work better with different mei tais.
Benefits of tying Apron Style:
Apron style tying creates a nice deep seat and shortens the panel slightly which can be helpful if you are wearing a smaller child.
Benefits of tying Non-Apron Style:
Non-Apron Style tying can make the panel feel a bit taller, which is helpful if you are wearing a taller child. Some people find that tying non-apron style can make the weight of the child transfer nicely to the hips/waist of the wearer.
So, check the instructions for your mei tai! Try both styles and let me know what you think!
For in person help with your mei tai, find a Center for Babywearing Studies trained babywearing consultant or find your local Babywearing International Chapter. There is also a fabulous map of babywearing groups on Thebabywearer.