Title:
INFANT CARRIER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An infant carrier includes a plurality of sections to wrap around a wearer's torso, in order to hold an infant against a chest of a wearer. The sections include a front panel, to enclose the chest, and a back section, extending from the front panel, to traverse across a back of the wearer. An inner seat for the infant is attached to an interior surface of the front panel. The front panel may include a layer of insulation and be waterproofed so that the infant carrier may function as an incubator. The carrier may be held around the torso by an attachment element having first and second mating parts, located along a width of the front panel and along the back section, respectively. The sections may also include a sash to wrap across the front panel from beneath a first shoulder to over a second shoulder of the wearer.



Inventors:
Hiniduma-lokuge, Prasanga D. (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/959135
Publication Date:
06/26/2008
Filing Date:
12/18/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D13/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LANDOLFI, JR., STEVEN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DICKE, BILLIG & CZAJA (FIFTH STREET TOWERS 100 SOUTH FIFTH STREET, SUITE 2250, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55402, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person, the apparatus comprising: a flexible wrapping member including a free side edge and a plurality of sections, which extend from the free side edge, the plurality of sections adapted for wrapping around a torso of the person; the plurality of sections including a front panel, to enclose the chest of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso, and a back section extending from the front panel to traverse across a back of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso; the front panel including a top terminal edge, a bottom terminal edge and an interior surface, that faces the chest when the member is wrapped around the torso; the front panel having a width from the top terminal edge to the bottom terminal edge, the width extending along a height of the torso when the member is wrapped around the torso; a reversible attachment element including first and second mating parts to hold, when mated, the wrapping member around the torso when the member is wrapped around the torso, such that the bottom terminal edge of the front panel is held snugly against the torso; the first part of the attachment element located along the width of the front panel, and the second part of the attachment element located along the back section of the wrapping member; and an inner seat for the infant attached to the interior surface of the front panel, the inner seat located to hold the infant against the chest of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso and the first and second parts of the attachment element are mated together.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the front panel includes a waterproof exterior surface.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the back section includes an interior surface and the interior surface of the front panel is a different color from the interior surface of the back section.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the back section is formed by a plurality of straps.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the back section includes an elastic portion.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein: the front panel is formed by an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material; and the inner layer of material is soft and breathable.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the front panel is further formed by an insulating layer extending between the inner layer and the outer layer.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the front panel is further formed by a waterproof layer extending between the inner layer and the outer layer.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the front panel is further formed by layer of padding extending between the inner and the outer layer.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the front panel is formed by a material layer including a phase change material.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the front panel is formed by an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material such that a pocket exists between the inner and outer layers of material.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the pocket forms a container for another member and the front panel further includes an opening into the pocket to accommodate insertion of the other member into the pocket.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a portion of the front panel is separable from the wrapping member; and the inner seat is attached to the interior surface of the front panel at a location coinciding with the separable portion thereof.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the inner seat is reversibly attached to the interior surface of the front panel.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising at least one additional inner seat attached to the interior surface of the front panel.

16. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the wrapping member further includes an elastic waist band coinciding with the bottom terminal edge of the front panel.

17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first part of attachment element is located in proximity to the free side edge of the wrapping member.

18. An apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person, the apparatus comprising: a flexible wrapping member including a free side edge and a plurality of sections, which extend from the free side edge, adapted for wrapping around a torso the person; the plurality of sections including a front panel, to enclose the chest of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso, a back section extending from the front panel, to traverse across a back of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso, and a sash, adapted for wrapping across the front panel, from beneath a first shoulder of the person to over a second shoulder of the person, when the wrapping member is wrapped around the torso; the front panel including an interior surface, that faces the chest, when the wrapping member is wrapped around the torso; a reversible attachment member to hold the wrapped sash in place; and an inner seat for the infant attached to the interior surface of the front panel, the inner seat located to hold the infant against the chest of the person, when the member is wrapped around the torso.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein: the front panel of the wrapping member extends from the free side edge thereof; the wrapping member further includes another free side edge; and the sash of the wrapping member extends from the back section of the wrapping member and terminates at the other free side edge of the wrapping member.

20. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the front panel includes a waterproof exterior surface.

21. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the back section includes an interior surface and the interior surface of the front panel is a different color from the interior surface of the back section.

22. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the back section includes an elastic portion.

23. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein: the front panel is formed by an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material; and the inner layer of material is soft and breathable.

24. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the front panel is further formed by an insulating layer extending between the inner layer and the outer layer.

25. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the front panel is further formed by a waterproof layer extending between the inner layer and the outer layer.

26. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the front panel is further formed by a layer of padding extending between the inner layer and the outer layer.

27. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the front panel is formed by a material layer including a phase change material.

28. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the front panel is formed by an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material such that a pocket exists between the inner and outer layers of material.

29. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the inner seat is reversibly attached to the interior surface of the front panel.

30. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising at least one additional inner seat attached to the interior surface of the front panel.

31. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising: an elastic waist band; and wherein the front panel of the plurality of sections of the wrapping member includes a top terminal edge and a bottom terminal edge, the front panel having a width from the top terminal edge to the bottom terminal edge, the width extending along a height of the torso, when the wrapping member is wrapped around the torso; and the elastic waist band coincides with a bottom terminal edge of the front panel.

32. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the wrapped sash has a width to support a head of the infant, which infant is held in the inner seat of the apparatus, when the wrapping member is wrapped around the torso.

33. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising: a back shoulder strap extending from the back section of the plurality of sections of the wrapping member to traverse over the second shoulder of the person, when the wrapping member is wrapped around the torso; the back shoulder strap including an attachment member to mate with the reversible attachment member of the sash to hold the wrapped sash in place.

34. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising: a reversible attachment element, the attachment element including first and second mating parts to hold, when mated, the wrapping member around the torso when the member is wrapped around the torso; and wherein the first part of the attachment element is located in proximity to the free side edge of the wrapping member; and the second part of the attachment element is located along the back section of the wrapping member.

35. The apparatus of claim 34, wherein: the sash has a width to reach over the second shoulder of the person and across the back of the person to beneath the first shoulder of the person; and the reversible attachment member of the sash mates with the reversible attachment element to hold the wrapped sash in place.

36. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein: a portion of the front panel is separable from the wrapping member; the inner seat is attached to the interior surface of the front panel at a location coinciding with the separable portion thereof; and the front panel is formed by an inner layer of material, an outer layer of material and a layer of padding extending between the inner and outer layers at a location coinciding with the separable portion

37. The apparatus of claim 36, wherein the sash is attached to an exterior surface of the separable portion of the front panel, so as to wrap around the infant held within the inner seat, when the portion is separated from the wrapping member.

38. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the sash is further adapted for wrapping over around the front panel and the infant held within the inner seat, when the wrapping member is unwrapped from around the torso.

39. A method to simultaneously carry and incubate a prematurely born infant, the method comprising: placing the infant in an inner seat, which inner seat is attached to an interior surface of a front panel of a flexible wrapping member; wrapping the wrapping member around a torso of a person such that the interior surface of the front panel faces a chest of the person; and securing the wrapping member around the torso, by coupling mating parts of a reversible attachment member, in order to hold the infant, which is placed in the inner seat, against a chest of the person so that the person may carry and incubate the infant; wherein at least the front panel of the wrapping member has a width to extend along a height of the torso and to enclose the chest of the person, when the wrapping member is secured around the torso.

40. The method of claim 39, wherein securing the wrapping member further comprises wrapping a sash of the wrapping member across the front panel from beneath a first shoulder of the person to over a second shoulder of the person, and securing the sash so that a head and neck of the infant, held in the inner seat, are supported by the sash.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

The present application claims priority to provisional application Ser. No. 60/871,579, entitled: BABY CARRIER, which was filed on Dec. 22, 2006, and which is hereby incorporated, by reference, in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention pertains to infant carriers and more particularly to those facilitating skin-to-skin contact between the infant and mother, for example, according to the concept of Kangaroo Care.

BACKGROUND

Because babies born prematurely frequently have difficulty in maintaining their body temperatures, the premature babies of developed countries are kept warm using typical modern-day incubators, for example, which are powered by electricity. However, incubators, as such, are not available in all parts of the world. In developing countries, areas affected by war, refugee camps and rural areas of some countries, where access to technology and/or a reliable source of electricity is limited, an alternative to these incubators is required. Thus, the concept of Kangaroo Maternal Care, or Kangaroo Care, has been developed as an alternative method for keeping prematurely-born infants warm.

The Kangaroo Care method involves holding a premature infant in skin-to-skin contact with the mother's chest and/or abdomen such that the mother's body heat provides warmth to the baby. Typically, towels, linen or other fabric or cloth materials are used to wrap and hold the infant against the mother. The method not only keeps the infant warm but is believed to have other benefits including providing the infant with a comforting environment that may feel more like the womb, increasing breast feeding incidence and duration, increasing infant weight gain, and strengthening the bond between the mother and child. Because of these additional benefits, Kangaroo Care is believed to be beneficial not only to premature infants but also to full term infants. Although there are many commercially available infant carriers that can hold an infant against the front of a parent, some of which may be compatible with Kangaroo Care, there is still a need for new types of infant carriers that better facilitate the implementation of Kangaroo Care.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following drawings are illustrative of particular embodiments and therefore do not limit the scope of the invention. The drawings are not to scale (unless so stated) and are intended for use in conjunction with the explanations in the following detailed description. Embodiments of the present disclosure will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawings, wherein like numerals denote like elements.

FIG. 1A is a front view of a mother wearing an infant carrier, which holds an infant, according to some embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 1B is a rear view of the mother of FIG. 1A, showing a back side of the infant carrier, according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 1C-D are additional front views of the infant carrier shown in FIGS. 1A-B, according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 2A-B are plan views of an interior and exterior, respectively, of an infant carrier, according to some additional embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a section view through a front panel of an infant carrier, according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 4A-E are schematics outlining some steps in a method for wrapping the infant carrier of FIGS. 2A-B around a torso, according to some embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5A is a perspective view of an interior of an interior of an infant carrier, according to some alternate embodiments.

FIG. 5B is a perspective view of the infant carrier of FIG. 5A, having been fastened in a wrapped configuration, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 6A is a plan view of an interior portion of front panel of an infant carrier, according to some alternate embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 6B is a plan view of the portion of the carrier shown in FIG. 6A, wherein a sash is shown wrapped around an infant, held therein, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 6C is a plan view of an interior of a front panel portion of an infant carrier, according to some additional alternate embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following detailed description is exemplary in nature and is not intended to limit the scope, applicability, or configuration of the invention in any way. Rather, the following description provides practical illustrations for implementing exemplary embodiments. Examples of constructions, materials, dimensions, and manufacturing processes are provided for selected elements, and all other elements employ that which is known to those of skill in the field of the invention. Utilizing the teaching provided herein, those skilled in the art will recognize that many of the examples have suitable alternatives that can be utilized.

Infant carriers, according to embodiments of the present invention, hold an infant against a chest of its mother, for skin-to-skin contact between the infant and mother, and preferred embodiments may be used as an incubator for a premature infant, provided the infant does not have any underdeveloped organs, by enclosing the infant in the skin-to-skin contact with the mother. An infant carrier, according to any of the described embodiments, while keeping the infant warm, also securely holds the infant against the mother, so that the mother may have confidence in using the carrier to transport the infant from one location to another, for example, from their home in a rural setting to a hospital or clinic in an urban setting. Thus, embodiments of the present invention may be used as transport incubator, for the aforementioned relatively long distance travel, or for travel between two places at a single locale, for example from a delivery unit to a typical, modern-day, incubator in an infant ICU. The carrier may also provide a comforting environment for the infant, may lead to increased breast feeding incidence and duration, increased infant weight gain, and a strengthened bond between the mother and child. Although embodiments of the invention are generally described in the context of a mother as a wearer, it should be appreciated that anyone else, of either the female or male sex, may utilize any carrier of the present invention to provide at least some of the aforementioned benefits to an infant.

FIG. 1A is a front view of a mother wearing an infant carrier 2, which holds an infant 10, according to some embodiments of the present invention; and FIG. 1B is a rear view of the mother of FIG. 1A, showing a back side of infant carrier 2, according to some embodiments. FIGS. 1A-B illustrate a flexible wrapping member 20 of carrier 2 wrapped around a torso of the mother and including a plurality of sections. The plurality of sections include a front panel 4, whose exterior surface 32, according to some embodiments, is waterproofed, and a back section 6; front panel 4 is shown enclosing an infant 10 and a chest of the mother to hold infant 10 in skin-to-skin contact therewith; and back section 6 is shown traversing across a back of the mother. Back section 6 may extend directly from front panel 4, being integral therewith, or may have been formed independently from a separate material, for example being attached to front panel at a stitched seam 404. According to the illustrated embodiment, wrapping member 20 is held wrapped around the torso by coupling a free side edge 22 of front panel 4 to a side edge 12 of back section 6, which has been brought around from the back side of the mother, under an arm of the mother to meet with front panel 4. FIG. 1A illustrates an attachment element 62, in the form of a zipper, which extends along a width of front panel 4, which width traverses a height of the torso; element 62 reversibly couples back section 6 to front panel 4, for holding wrapping member 20 around the torso. Attachment element 62 may be a two-way zipper so that the mother may unzip element 62 from either a top end or a bottom end thereof. Alternative types of attachment elements for such a purpose will be described below, in conjunction with FIGS. 2A-B and FIGS. 5A-B.

FIG. 1B illustrates back section 6 including side portions 34 and a central portion 94, which portion 94 may be elasticized, either being formed by a single elastic panel or by including a plurality of elastic straps 904. Alternatively, or in addition, one or both of side portions 34 are elasticized. According to some embodiments, back section 6 encloses the mother's back to retain warmth, while according to alternate embodiments, back section 6 is more open to allow air flow along the mother's back, for example, wherein central portion 94 is formed by straps 904 only, or wherein all, or a portion of back section 6 is formed from a vented material, such as a mesh fabric. It should be noted that, according to some embodiments, back section 6 is formed from a single solid piece of material.

FIGS. 1A-B further illustrate wrapping member 20 including an optional waist band 8, which is coincident with a bottom terminal edge 28 of front panel 4 and further extends along a bottom terminal edge of back section 6 to encircle a waist, or hips, of the mother, and being in close contact therewith. A snugly fitted waist band 8 can help to keep infant 10 warm, by preventing air entry between bottom edge 28 and the mother's chest, and can help to support the weight of infant 10 against the mother's hips and distribute the weight evenly. Waist band 8 may be a separate band, elastic or non-elastic, which is adjoined to front panel 4 and back section 6, or may be formed from lower portions of front panel 4 and/or back section 6. For example, the lower edges of the front panel 4 and/or back section 6 may be folded back onto themselves and stitched to form a tubular opening, which tubular opening may contain a drawstring, elastic, a belt, for example, secured by a buckle or hook-and-loop type (e.g. Velcro®) fastener, or any other suitable material for making waist band 8 adjustable around the mother, according to some embodiments. Alternatively, or in addition, side portions 34 may include draw strings, elastic or otherwise, or other types of fasteners, such as buttons, snaps, or hook-and-loop type fasteners, to facilitate size adjustment of wrapping member 20 around the torso. Also, it should be noted that the mother may also loosen waist band 8 via attachment element 62, which is in the form of the aforementioned two-way zipper.

FIG. 1A illustrates wrapping member 20 also including a sash 40; sash 40 is shown transparent in FIG. 1A, for the purposes of illustration, in order to facilitate the viewing of infant 10 and other elements of carrier 2, for description herein. According to some embodiments, sash 40 is joined in proximity to edge 12 of back section 6, and is configured to wrap over and across front panel 4 from beneath a first shoulder of the mother to over a second shoulder of the mother, when back section 6 is coupled to front panel 4, as illustrated. According to the illustrated embodiment, sash 40, when wrapped, helps to secure infant 10 inside front panel 4 and against the mother's chest; sash 40 covers the head of infant 10 and provides support to the neck and head of infant 10. A tightness of wrapped sash 40 may also be adjustable to allow the mother to adjust the proximity of infant 10 to her chest, for example, via a reversible attachment member 50, shown in FIGS. 1C-D, which holds sash 40 in place. According to some preferred embodiments, sash 40 is attached to front panel 4, in proximity to attachment element 62, and may also be used to keep infant 10 warm, when wrapping member 20 is unwrapped and separated from the mother. According to these embodiments, when front panel 4 has been separated from back panel 6, at attachment member 62, sash 40 may be wrapped around front panel 4 and infant 10, in order to cover and keep warm infant 10, who rests against the interior surface of front panel 4, for at least five to ten minutes. As will be described below, in conjunction with FIGS. 6A-B, front panel may further include a mattress-like padding for infant 10 to rest on when wrapping member is unwrapped and separated from the mother; the padding may further function as a heat source, which will be described below.

FIGS. 1C-D are additional front views of infant carrier 2, wherein a back shoulder strap 44 is shown extending from back section 6. FIGS. 1C-D illustrate a first part 50A of attachment member 50 coupled to sash 40, and a second part 50B of attachment member 50 coupled to back shoulder strap 44. According to the illustrated embodiment, first part 50A is formed by a plurality of buttons 105, and second part 50B is formed by a looped fastener configured to mate with any of buttons 105, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 1D. FIG. 1D illustrates sash 40 extending over front panel 4 to meet with back shoulder strap 44 at the second shoulder, and second part 50B of attachment member 50 holding sash 40 in place, by mating with one of buttons 105. With reference to FIGS. 1C-D, it should be appreciated that a tightness of wrapped sash 40 may be adjusted by fastening second part 50B to a different button 105; however, it should be noted that alternative reversible attachment members, for securing sash 40 in place, which are formed by any other type of fastener know in the art, are within the scope of the present invention.

FIGS. 1A and 1C further illustrate front panel 4 including a pocket 90, for example, formed between an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material, which is accessible via an opening 91 in front panel 4. Although FIG. 1A illustrates opening 91 located on an exterior side of front panel 4, opening 91 may alternately be located along a top terminal edge 26 of front panel 4, or on an interior side of front panel 4. Pocket 90 may extend over an entirety of front panel 4 or over just a portion thereof. Pocket 90 may be used for holding a source of heat, such as a hot water bag or a layer of phase change material, which is described in greater detail, below, to supply extra warmth to infant 10, and/or a layer of insulative material, for example, Thinsulate™ (3M), any of which may be inserted or removed as desired, for example, to regulate a temperature of the space between front panel 4 and the mother's chest. According to some embodiments, opening 91 into pocket 90 is sealable, such as with snaps, buttons, a zipper, or a hook-and-loop fastener (e.g. Velcro®).

According to preferred embodiments of the present invention, carrier 2 further includes an inner seat, which is attached to an interior surface of front panel 4, and in which infant 10 may be held so as to maintain a suitable position of infant 10, as illustrated; the seat may be configured like a pair of underwear pants to support hips of infant 10 and having leg holes through which legs of infant 10 may extend. Inclusion of an inner seat in carrier 2 may be particularly important for premature infants, who otherwise might slide about within the space between front panel 4 and the mother's chest, and, if the inner seat is constructed with a waterproof inner lining and/or to include a hygroscopic material, frequent changing of the infant may not be required. Various embodiments of inner seats will be described below, in conjunction with FIGS. 2A, 5A, 6A and 6C.

FIGS. 2A-B are plan views of an interior and exterior, respectively, of an infant carrier 200, according to some embodiments of the present invention, wherein a wrapping member 210 thereof is depicted in an opened, unwrapped configuration. FIGS. 2A-B illustrate a plurality of section of wrapping member 210 including a front panel 204 extending from a first free edge 220 of wrapping member 210, a back section 206, extending from front panel 204, and a sash 240, extending from back section 206 to a second free edge 224 of wrapping member 210. FIG. 2A further illustrates an inner seat 280 attached to an interior surface 214 of front panel 204, for holding an infant, which seat 280 includes two leg openings 282 and an upper opening 281 through which the infant may be inserted. According to some embodiments, inner seat 280 is reversibly attached to front panel 204 via fasteners, for example, located at edges 285; some suitable fasteners include, without limitation, hook-and-loop type, snaps, and buttons. Although not shown, according to some embodiments, at least one vertical row of fastening members is attached to interior surface 214 for mating with corresponding fastening members attached to seat 280, so that seat 280 may be repositioned higher or lower within carrier 200 to accommodate babies of different sizes, or a single baby as it grows. Reversible fastening members may further facilitate adjustment of a size of seat 280, and/or the placement of the infant into seat 280, for example, by detaching one side of seat 280 at one of edges 285; the fastening members further allow seat 280 to be removed for washing, separate from wrapping member 210. Inner seat 280, and alternate embodiments thereof, will be described in greater detail below, in conjunction with FIGS. 6A and 6C.

According to FIGS. 2A-B, each section of wrapping member 210 has a similar width, which is defined from a top terminal edge 216 to a bottom terminal edge 218 of front panel 204, but, according to alternate embodiments, each section may have a different width. According to some embodiments, each section shares a continuous length of material that extends from first free edge 220 to second free edge 224, but according to alternate embodiments, each section is formed from an independent length of material stitched together at edges of each section. Some suitable alternative material layers for wrapping member 210 will be described below, in conjunction with FIG. 3. FIGS. 2A-B further illustrate carrier 200 including an attachment element, which is formed by first and second parts 262A, 262B, which, when coupled, or mated together, hold wrapping member 210 around a torso of a person; first part 262A is shown as a vertical row of buttons 226 located on an exterior surface 232 of front panel 204, and second part 262B is shown as a vertical row of mating button holes 227, located in proximity to an edge 211 of back section 206. With further reference to FIGS. 2A-B, it should be noted that an additional row of button holes 228, which are located along sash 240, in proximity to second free edge 224, form an attachment member 262C for holding sash 240 in place, when wrapped, via coupling with first part 262A of the attachment element. Turning now to FIGS. 4A-4E, a sequence of steps for assembling carrier 200 around the torso will be described, so that the coupling of parts 262A and 262B, and member 262C, may be better understood.

FIGS. 4A-E are schematics outlining some steps in a method for wrapping infant carrier 200 around a torso, according to some embodiments of the present invention. FIGS. 4A-B illustrate a back side and a front side, respectively of a person, for example, a mother, wherein wrapping member 210 is positioned such that back section 206 extends across the back side of the person, above a waist, or hips, for wrapping around the torso. With reference to FIG. 4B, infant 10 may be placed in seat 280 prior to wrapping front panel 204 over the front side of the person, as shown in FIG. 4C. Alternatively, infant 10 may be positioned in seat 280 after front panel 204 is wrapped over the front side of the person. FIG. 4C further illustrates arrows that indicate the coupling, or mating, of the row of buttons 226 with button holes 227 in order to hold back section 206 and front panel 204 around the torso. Once back section 206 and front panel 204 are held around the torso, sash 240 is wrapped across front panel 204 from beneath a first shoulder to over a second shoulder, as shown in FIG. 4D. According to the illustrated embodiment, a length of sash 240 is sufficient to then reach across the back side of the torso, per the arrow of FIG. 4D, so that button holes 228 can be brought around to mate with buttons 226, as illustrated by the arrows in FIG. 4E. According to some embodiments, sash 240 includes a plurality of rows of button holes, which are spaced apart at different distances from free edge 224 (FIG. 2A) in order to make a length of the wrapped sash 240 adjustable; thus, a tightness about a single person can be adjusted, or a fit for a variety of different persons can be provided. With further reference to FIG. 4E, it may be appreciated that carrier 200 can allow for hands-free carrying of the enclosed infant 10.

In order to help the person to properly position wrapping member 210 for wrapping, as shown in FIGS. 4C-E, according to some embodiments, interior surface 214 of front panel 204 is a different color than that of an interior surface 260 (FIG. 2A) of back section 206; a color of interior surface 214 may further help to identify the surface as that which interfaces with the person, who wears carrier 200, and the infant, as opposed to an exterior surface 232 (FIG. 2B) of wrapping member 210. A color of sash 240 may match that of interior surface 214 of front panel 204, in order to identify both sash 240 and front panel 204 as those sections of wrapping member 210, which interface with the infant to be held by carrier 200. Alternatively, a texture, or feel of materials that form each section and surface of wrapping member 210 may be sufficient, without color coding, to help a person identify each section. With reference back to FIGS. 1A, 1C, 2A-B and to FIG. 3 some alternative material layers for wrapping members 20, 210 will now be described. It should be noted that the types of materials, colors and patterns selected for wrapping members 20, 210 may be tailored to a particular climate and to a particular culture.

FIG. 3 is a section view through front panel 4, 204 of wrapping member 20, 210 according to some embodiments. FIG. 3 illustrates front panel 4, 204 formed from three layers of materials, a first, outer layer 301, which forms exterior surface 32, 232, a second, inner layer 302, which forms interior surface 214, and an insulating layer 300, for example, Thinsulate™, extending therebetween. FIG. 3 further illustrates optional air pockets extending between outer layer 301 and middle layer 300, and between inner layer 302 and middle layer 300 for added insulation, which added insulation may be important when carrier 2, 200 is used as an incubator that retains the wearers body heat to keep a premature infant, carried therein, sufficiently warm. Alternatively, the air pockets may be filled with a gel material to provide added insulation; the gel may incorporate a phase change material, as described below. Material layers 300, 301, 302 may also muffle surrounding noise and keep out light, in order to make the space between front panel 204 and a mother's chest more comfortable for the infant.

Outer layer 301 is preferably formed from a relatively light weight material that will protect the carried infant from the environment, for example, a waterproof material such as Cordura® nylon (INVISTA Inc.), or other types of nylon, or polyesters, such as Mylar®, or plastics, such as vinyl or polyethylene. Exterior surface 232 of outer layer 301 may have a dark color, which can be useful for absorbing heat from the sun. According to preferred embodiments, inner layer 302 is formed from a relatively soft material that conforms to both the wearer's and the infant's shape, provides a gentle and comfortable interface with the infant, and is breathable in order to reduce the risk of bacterial growth; examples of suitable materials for forming inner layer 302 include, without limitation, cotton, polar fleece, spandex, nylon, polyester, and/or any other natural or synthetic fibers that are safe for infants. Inner layer 302, may further include a waterproofing across entire inner surface 214, or just a portion thereof, for example, in the area of seat 280. Alternately, an additional layer of waterproof material, for example, a suitable flexible plastic, be inserted between layers 301 and 302. According to preferred embodiments, any or all of layers 301, 302, 300 include a waterproof material so that front panel 4, 204, can prevent dehydration of the infant carried within carrier 2, 200. Alternatively, or in addition, a removable waterproof layer may be included, for example, in pocket 90 of front panel 4 (FIG. 1A), or in one of the air pockets shown in FIG. 3, to accommodate for various humidity levels of the surrounding environment.

According to some embodiments, at least front panel 4, 204 includes a phase change material (PCM), for example, as available from Outlast Technologies, Inc. of Boulder, Colo. (www.outlast.com). The PCM may be applied as a finishing on fabrics, or infused into fibers during the manufacturing process, for example, to form part of inner layer 302 and/or insulating layer 300; or the PCM may be incorporated in a gel-like material which may be contained within the air pockets. The thermal properties of a phase change material cause the material to absorb heat, in case a temperature rises above a particular maximum desired temperature, such as approximately 38° C., and to release heat if the temperature falls below a minimum desired temperature, such as approximately 36° C. Thus carrier 2, 200, which includes a PCM, can maintain a desired temperature, or temperature range, for the infant carried within the carrier 2, 200, such as between approximately 36° C. and approximately 38° C. Carrier 2, 200 may further include a temperature monitor, for example, a thermometer, so that the wearer may monitor the temperature within the carrier 2, 200; thus, if a pocket is included in carrier 2, 200, for example, pocket 90, which was previously described for carrier 2 (FIGS. 1A and 1C), the wearer will know when to insert or remove an insulative member from the pocket. The various layering options afforded by embodiments of the present invention allow use in a variety of climates.

With reference to FIGS. 2A-B, any or all of material layers 300, 301, 302 may extend from front panel 204 to form back section 106; alternatively, back section 106 may be formed from one or more separate material layers, which are attached to front panel 204 at an edge 212, for example, via a stitched seam; in either case, back section 206 preferably includes an elastic portion, for example, according to any of the embodiments previously described for back section 6 of carrier 2 (FIGS. 1A-B), and a construction of back section 206 is preferably tailored to a particular climate, for example, being insulated, like front panel 204, in colder climates, or open, to allow air flow therethrough for warmer climates, as previously described in conjunction with FIG. 1B. Furthermore, sash 240 may be an extension of layers 300, 301, 302, or be formed from one or more separate material layers attached to back section 206 at edge 211, for example, via a stitched seam. According to preferred embodiments, an entirety of sash 240 is formed from a comfortable and relatively soft and draping material, for example, cotton or nylon, which may include a native print; and, preferably, that portion of sash 240 which extends over front panel 204, when wrapped, includes a lining to provide warmth and comfort to infant 10, for example, formed from a polar fleece or wool material. For colder climates, another layer of insulative material, for example, Thinsulate™, may be included in sash 240. When wrapping member 210 is unwrapped and separated from the mother, sash 240 may be used as blanket for infant 10, who remains held against interior surface 214 of front panel 204, as previously described above, in conjunction with FIG. 1A, and similar to that shown in FIG. 6B.

Turning now to FIGS. 5A-B, an infant carrier 5, according to some alternate embodiments, will be described. FIGS. 5A-B illustrate a wrapping member 500 of carrier 5 including a plurality of sections extending between a first free edge 522 and a second free edge 524; the plurality of sections includes a front panel 504 and a back section, which is divided into a first portion 506A, extending from a first side of front panel 504, and a second portion 506B, extending from a second side of front panel 504. FIG. 5A further illustrates front panel 504 including a top terminal edge 526 and a bottom terminal edge 518, such that panel 504 has a width that would extend along a length of the a torso, for example, similar to wrapping members 20, 210 of FIGS. 1A and 4A-E, respectively. FIGS. 5A-B further illustrate carrier 5 including first and second mating parts 562A, 562B of a reversible attachment element 562; first part 562A is shown formed from a plurality of loops 597 and located along the width of front panel 504, between front panel 504 and first portion 506A of the back section; and second part 562B is shown formed by a plurality of straps and located along second portion 506B of the back section, in proximity to second free edge 524. According to the illustrated embodiment, each strap 595 mates with a corresponding loop 597 so that attachment element 562 holds wrapping member 500 around a torso of a wearer; all or a portion of bottom terminal edge 518 may be elasticized to keep bottom terminal edge 518 of front panel 504 snug against a waist of the wearer. FIG. 5B further illustrates a first end of each strap 595, which end has been passed through a corresponding loop 597, per the arrow, being folded back onto the corresponding strap 595, in order to mate with a corresponding strip of fastening material 509 coupled to an opposite end of the corresponding strap 595; according to an exemplary embodiment, strips 509 are formed from a hook-and-loop type material and mating strips of this material are coupled to the first end of each strap 595.

With reference to FIG. 5A, an inner seat 580 is shown attached to an interior surface 514 of a portion 530 of front panel 504. Seat 580 is constructed, similar to the previously-described seat 280 of carrier 200 (FIG. 2A), including two leg openings and an upper opening, through which the infant may be inserted, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 6A. According to some embodiments, portion 530 may be separated from the rest of wrapping member 500 along edges 620 and 640, for example, via zipper mechanisms. Separation of portion 530 may be desirable in order to wash separately portion 530, and/or, when infant 10 is still held within seat 580, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 6A, to separate infant 10 from the mother's chest, while maintaining portion 530 as an interface between infant 10 and a surface on which the infant is laid, for example, for feeding the infant or for the purpose of performing a medical checkup. As such, portion 530 may be constructed to include an extra thick insulation layer (reference layer 300 of FIG. 3), for example, a layer of Thinsulate™ insulation sandwiched between two layers of fabric, such as cotton, or constructed to include a separate, extra layer of padding between the outer and inner layers (reference layers 301, 302 of FIG. 3), to make portion 530 more mattress-like. It should be noted that, for any of the other previously described carriers 2, 200, such a padding may be included in front panel 4, 204, and either or both of front panels 4, 204 may also include a separable portion like portion 530.

Although not shown in FIGS. 5A-B, it should be appreciated that a sash 740, which is shown in FIG. 6B, may be attached to portion 530 of front panel 504; when portion 530 is separated from wrapping member 500, sash 740 may be wrapped around portion 530 and over infant 10, as shown in FIG. 6B, in order to function like a blanket or a shawl to completely cover infant 10 and thereby keep infant 10 warm; alternately, even if portion 530 is not separated from the rest of wrapping member 500, sash 740 may be wrapped about infant 10, as shown, and also engulf the rest of wrapping member 500. Furthermore, it should be appreciated that, when wrapping member 500 is wrapped around a torso, sash 740 wraps over an exterior surface thereof, similar to sash 40 of wrapping member 20 (FIGS. 1A and 1D), or sash 240 of wrapping member 210 (FIG. 4E), to further support infant 10 carried in carrier 5. With reference back to FIGS. 2A-B and 4A-E, it may be appreciated that, when device 200 is separated from around the torso of the person, that infant 10 may continue to be held in device 200, being wrapped within wrapping member 210 so that front panel 204, for example, including a cushioning layer, acts as an interface between infant 10 and a surface, on which the infant is laid, and sash 240 can be wrapped around infant 10 to completely cover the infant in a manner similar to that illustrated in FIG. 6B.

FIG. 6A further illustrates optional additional seats 581 and 582, which are provided to either accommodate infants of different sizes, or to accommodate infant 10 as he grows, rather than a single detachable/adjustable seat, like the previously-described seat 280. Thus, according to the embodiment of FIG. 6A, inner seats 580, 581 and 582 may be fixedly attached to interior surface 514. According to an alternate embodiment, which is illustrated in FIG. 6C, an optional additional seat 583 is not only positioned lower on section 530 but is sized larger, in order to accommodate the grown infant 10 or another larger infant. Like inner seats 580, 581, 582 of FIG. 6A, inner seats 580 and 583 of FIG. 6C may be fixedly attached to interior surface 514. According to some preferred embodiments of the present invention, any or all of seats 280, 580, 581, 582, 583, are detachable from interior surface 214, 514 of wrapping member 210, 500 for separate washing and/or disposal and replacement. According to some embodiments, the seats are formed from a modern day diaper material, for example, which includes a hygroscopic substance such as polyacrylate, that can be washed and dried over two to three times, but which does not include any non-biodegradable plastics.

In the foregoing detailed description, the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments. However, it may be appreciated that various modifications and changes can be made without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.





 
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