Variations on a Theme
I’m going to compare/contrast a few different variations on Asian-style carriers here. Though some of these carriers excel at back carrying, I’m showing all front pictures to allow for a better comparison.
The basic Mei Tai. Regular Mei Tai carriers have waist straps (usually 3-5 inches wide) and shoulder straps (usually 4-8 inches wide). I will admit, this is my favorite style of Asian carrier. It’s a basic, no-muss carrier. It is super easy to put on for front carries, though it can be a bit awkward during the tying process of back carries.
Onbuhimo. Most onbuhimos have a smaller body than a typical MT, and they have one set of (usually padded) top straps. They have a pair of rings instead of bottom straps, and a padded bar across the bottom of the carrier acts as a “seat” for the child. Onbuhimo carriers are great for fast and easy back carries, but can be kind of a hassle when tying on the front. They are super compact. Wide straps are not a practical option, since they must be threaded through the rings (and consequently, would bunch up).
Narrow Body Podegi. A podegi is like a MT without any bottom straps, or like an onbu without the bottom rings. Traditional Podegis are wide-body (about a yard wide) and have narrow straps. More popular these days are “narrow body” podegis, pictured above. The body is about as wide as a Mei Tai or Onbu. The straps can be narrow or wide. (Wide is pictured.) A narrow body pod is a fast and easy carrier to use, and it is also remarkably compact if it has narrow straps. The lack of bottom straps means that all of baby’s weight is carried by your shoulders, making this carrier somewhat difficult for some wearers with older children.
The carrier pictured has wide straps, they’re about 24 inches wide. I will say, I don’t personally feel that the wide straps add much to the comfort of the carrier, when worn in this position. Others may have a different opinion.
Please note that he looks awkwardly high, but I think it’s just the angle of the picture.
Mei Tai with wide straps (or wrap straps). Some people make these out of old wraps, and they are called “wrap conversion” MTs. This particular one is made with all new materials, and the straps are about 18 inches wide. Personally, again, I didn’t find the wide straps to make a huge difference in terms of comfort or wearability, though it might be the fabric I used. (I used twill, which isn’t particularly stretchy, and it’s likely that wrap-style straps are more comfortable when made with a “wrap-ier” fabric.) As a drawback, the wide straps make the carrier less “packable,” since they are not only wider, but also longer.
This wide-strap MT (complete with toddler picking her nose) has straps about 24 inches wide made from linen (much “wrap-ier” than twill). It was super comfortable, but I remained unsold on the benefits of the wide strap vs regular straps. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way?
Hope this was helpful in some way – I know there’s been a lot of talk lately in our local Babywearing group comparing and contrasting different types of Asian-style carriers, and it got me thinking that others might find this comparison to be useful, too.