UPDATED REVIEW: 12/1/2012
I have decided to update this review since I have been using this mei tai for several months, and I believe it deserves a proper review.
For those who don't know, a mei tai (pronounced "may tie") is a traditional Chinese baby carrier. It is a square (or rectangle) of fabric with a strap coming from each corner. Mei tais are awesome carriers because they can be customized to fit any size or shape wearer. You tie them on, so it is easy to fit it to each person. Mei tais are also great for different sized babies. MTs can have the waist rolled (folded) down to adjust the height of the carrier, and the waist can be cinched with a string or ribbon to customize the width so baby will always have the proper knee to knee coverage! What this really means, is that a bigger MT will last you longer than a small one.
I was in search of a CatBird Mei Tai for months before two suddenly came up at a great price. The first I got was an older cotton version, with a cute pattern known as Loteria. The second is a new version organic canvas color block (same as the one pictured above). The older version lacks some of the features in the newer version. So this review is aimed at the organic color block mei tai. Both mei tais are made in the USA.
The CatBird Mei Tai is generously sized. It measures 20.5in high, by 15.5in wide. It fit baby perfectly at 16mo, with the waist rolled twice for arms out. Now she is 21mo, not quite knee to knee, but she can still be arms in or out. The fabric is sturdy, supportive, and sewn together well. It is cool enough for hot weather, but over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I prefer the cotton over the canvas. The CBB is a flat style mei tai - no seat darts or shaping.
The CatBird has a hideaway hood that is big enough for use with a toddler! It ties on to loops on the shoulder straps. When not in use it can be tucked into the body of the carrier. This pocket can be used to carry a diaper, wallet, or other small essentials. You could also fold up a washcloth and stick it in there to create a headrest for baby.
This carrier also has a loop sewn onto the base of the carrier. It can be used to cinch the carrier's width. According to the manual, this is supposed to be used to make the carrier narrower for a front facing out carry. I do not recommend carrying a baby facing out for several reasons (see my, 'Why Not Face Out?' post here). Instead, this can be used to cinch the width for newborn use. The current recommendation is for babies to be legs out from birth, so rather than froggying babies legs in the mei tai, you could do a legs out carry. Just be sure that you have the fabric supporting baby from knee to knee, with their bum lower than their knees. See my 'Infant Positioning' post for more info.
The CatBird Baby MT has lightly padded shoulder straps and an unpadded waist. I like the unpadded waist because it is more customizable as far as where you can put it, and you can roll it up for a smaller baby. The padding on the shoulder straps is just enough to make it comfortable with a bigger baby, yet, not with so much bulk that it still doesn't fold up small. The top straps measure about 72in. This isn't extremely long, but the average sized woman should be able to do the instructed tie offs. If you are plus sized, planning to tie Tibetan, or do other ties that require more fabric, it may be a better idea to find a mei tai with longer straps. Even a fluffy mom can use it comfortably tied under bum though.
For reference, I am a size 14 with a DDD chest, and I can just do this tie: front carry, straps crossed in back, crossed over baby's bum, and tied in back - with a toddler. I can do ruck straps easily, TUB (tie under bum), and carry a newborn. I can not do Tibetan straps.
There is a padded waist strap available as a separate purchase. I have just ordered one, and will comment on it's comfort once I have used it more.
I find this carrier to be very comfortable! I have used it on zoo trips, walks to the park, beach days, etc. If I am going to be carrying for hours straight, I prefer an SSC with an older baby or toddler. If I am going to be carrying for long walks, need my hands free, or want to go shopping, I choose my mei tai. This is a five star mei tai!
ORIGINAL REVIEW: 7/29/2012
I was in search of a CatBird Mei Tai for months before two suddenly came up at a great price. The first I got was an older cotton version, with a cute pattern known as Loteria. The second is a new version organic canvas color block.
- The shoulder straps are wide and lightly padded - super comfortable
- Perfect length on the straps to get a nice, secure carry
- The newer version's larger body is awesome
- Hideaway hood is large enough for a toddler!
- Cool enough for summer weather, but over 80F I prefer the cotton over the canvas.
- Bottom is unpadded, so you can adjust body size to different size babies. The 16 month old I watch needs it rolled once for arms out. She has plenty of room to grow!
- The base is adjustable for a facing out carry. I do not recommend this carry, but it is possible.
- Made in USA