The first thing to do with your Mei Tai is figure out which way is up! Some Mei Tai carriers have a rounded top, like the Kozy Mei Tai. The BabyHawk has an angled and stiff headrest on the top that can be folded up or down to accommodate your baby. If you still can’t figure out which is the top, the waist straps at the bottom are shorter than the shoulder straps at the top.
Hold your carrier upside-down with the side you want to be visible against your body. Take the waist straps and tie them around your waist with a double knot. The carrier will be hanging down from your body like an apron. You can experiment with where you tie the carrier. Some people like the straps to be high on their waist, others will tie lower around the hips. Where you tie can change the distribution of your child’s weight, and ultimately change the way the carrier feels on your body.
Once you have the bottom of the carrier tied on, you can pick up your toddler. Toddlers are big enough that they can have one leg on each side of the base of the carrier. Hold your child to you and pull the carrier up between their legs until they are sitting in the base of the carrier. You may also want to tug the top of the carrier and bounce or jiggle a little bit to let your child’s weight settle down into the carrier and make sure there is no slack before you start to tie.
Now hold your toddler with one hand behind his back or under him. Make sure this hand is on top of the Mei Tai so that you are holding it up on his back.
With your free hand, take one shoulder strap and put it over your shoulder so that it is hanging down behind you. You may then need to switch which had is holding your child, or perhaps you will be able to put the other strap over the other shoulder while still holding your child the same way. Now, using your free hand again, reach behind you and grab the strap that is going over the opposite shoulder. Pull the strap around and hold it and the carrier against your child. With your other hand, reach behind and grab the remaining strap and bring it around. This will create an X on your back, and you should also be able to support your toddler just by holding the straps taut.
At this point it is very important that you pull all the slack out of the shoulder straps before tying. There is a bit of a trick to this, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to do it without thinking. To start, make sure you have one strap in each hand.
One method for removing the slack is to take one strap in each hand and then bounce or jump a little bit. When your baby’s weight is up in the air, give the straps a firm tug.
Another method, which is better for smaller children, is to hold the strap on the right side with your right hand, and hold up your baby with this same hand, somewhere under her bottom. Lift up your child with your right hand and then with your left hand pull on the strap to remove the slack. Then hold your left hand against your child’s bottom, keeping the strap that is in that hand tight. Push up on your baby once again with your left hand and with your right hand pull the slack out of the strap.
Once the slack is out of the straps, put them under each of your child’s legs and tie them in a double knot under her bottom.