The Best of TBW: Asian Style Carriers

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In 2006, a Babyhawk meh dai was my very first carrier purchase after joining TBW. Meh dais have remained one of my favorites carrier types because they are comfortable and easy to use. In this third installment of The Best of TBW series, I will discuss the influence that Asian Style Carriers have had on the babywearing community and share some classic threads from TBW about the Meh Dai and two of its popular cousins, the podaegi and the onbuhimu.

my first meh dai in 2006

The meh dai (China) is just one of many carriers that make up the Asian Style Carriers (ASC) category. Other carriers in this category are the Hmong (used by the Hmong people who live in the mountains of China, Laos, Vietnam and Tailand), the Onbuhimu (Japan), the Podaegi and the Chunei (both from Korea).

ASC’s all share a similar structure – a rectangle of fabric that makes up the body of the carrier and straps to tie the carrier around the caregiver’s body. What makes them different from each other is their unique strap configurations which allow caregivers to meet different wearing needs, each style filling its own special niche. You can learn more about each of these carriers on this thread from June 2007:

Meh dais

O&A mei tai
back carry in a meh dai

The modern meh dai descends from the traditional chinese meh dai. This americanized meh dai has a taller and wider body and longer,  wider and sometimes padded straps. The most common method used to tie it is different than it’s traditional counterpart.

Meh dais quickly rose in popularity due to their ease of use and beautiful designs. Many meh dais are literally works of art. Meh dais are made in fashionable prints and luxurious fabrics. If you have an hour or two, fall down the rabbit hole and check out the many meh dai photo threads on TBW:

I am often asked about the name, meh dai, what does it mean and how do you pronounce it?Meh dai is Cantonese and we pronounce it ‘may tye’, though in the correct pronunciation the M sounds more like a B and the T sounds more like a D. There are variations on meaning, but many agree that it means to wear on the back with a strap or tie:

When bringing the meh dai to the US, many vendors wanted to be sure that they were using the right terminology and names for the Asian style carriers that they were producing. This thread from June 2004 is a little slice of history – bringing community pioneers, Vesta (EllaRoo,, founding member of the BCIA), Kelley (Kozy), Carole (Sakura Bloom), Kaire (Freehand), Nelly (Angelpack), Grace (mangobaby) and others to discuss the development of the name and some of the history behind it’s modern application:

Over the years, the meh dai has evolved. A cottage industry was born with the opening of online shops that were designing, sewing and selling meh dais with each vendor putting their own distinct twist on the design of the meh dai. This developed the many features we see on meh dais today.

It’s hard to pick just one or two threads because there are so many, but this thread is one of my favorites all about what exactly is the magic that makes up the babyhawk headrest. The headrest has always been a highly guarded secret, that has no doubt been influential in the design of meh dais since it was introduced:;20bh

Another great thread that I think has been influential is that of the cutting diagram of Octi Meh Dai. Shannon/babyraecreations the designer of the OMT, was at the forefront of the evolution of wrap conversion meh dais. When she closed her shop she graciously shared her cutting diagram and answered questions for those who would like to make their own version – it’s now an interesting piece of history in the context of how popular wrap conversion meh dais have become in the past few years:

Before video tutorials, photo threads and tutorials were very popular on TBW. Two threads that have long been great community resources are the apron/non-apron thread:

And the shoulder strap tying variation threads:

Another fun geeky subject is about construction. How can different methods of construction and materials affect comfort and longevity of meh dais?:

Beyond the geekery, TBW has always loved a good stash shot thread and one of the most epic meh dai stash shots belongs to our beloved Alison/mom2twinsplus2 and her very literal mountains of meh dais stash thread:

Podaegis and Onbuhimus 

a wrap conversion Podaegi with wrap straps

Podaegi and Onbuhimos have both ridden waves of popularity over the years. While they are highly specialized carriers that fill a niche, they are both great for high back carries because they don’t have waistbands. While they sound similar to each other, they are very different from one another!

The Podaegi is an elongated rectangle of fabric – called the blanket – and the blanket can either be wide (which is the the traditional style) or narrow. They only have shoulder straps that can either be angled or straight. The Podaegi tips and tweaks thread is a great place to start learning about podaegi:

This fun photo thread from 2007 is an interesting array of the popular fabric prints and styles of Podaegi at that time:

The Onbuhimo is currently a rising star in the community. Hybrids – the buckle onbuhimo and the reverse onbuhimo are fairly new evolutions and have helped launch them back into popularity. But let’s talk about their predecessor, the classic ring onbuhimo. There are a couple of great threads about onbuhimo. This one has a lot of chatter and information about onbuhimo:

And this photo thread from 2006 shows how much the the onbuhimo has evolved in recent years:

An interesting twist in the story of the onbuhimo is Mrs. Peterson and her baby toter. In 2008, a video was found in the CBC archives about babywearing. The interview from 1963, features Mrs. Peterson and a carrier that she made – this carrier was basically a non-adjustable onbuhimo:

The DIY community quickly took up the cause and started experimenting and making their own versions of the baby toter:

But one of the main drawbacks was that the baby toter had to fit the wearer just right. But a remedy to that would be developed shortly in the form of buckle bu’s:

The history is really fascinating and looking back, we can see see how our community has been shaped by the rich traditions and cultures from which ASC’s originated. For centuries, caregivers have used ASC’s and we wouldn’t have the variety of carriers available today without the influence and inspirations that have come from this amazing style of carriers.

Next Up on The Best of TBW: Soft Structured Carriers

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the current name used for this type of carrier.