Title:
MULTIFUNCTIONAL CHILD CARRIER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a multifunctional child carrier. In one embodiment, the multifunctional child carrier is transitionable between front and side carrying positions on a wearer, and has a carrier body with a bottom section having a support sleeve, a lumbar belt configured to extend through the support sleeve and about the body of the wearer, and a pair of adjustable shoulder straps extensible over the wearer's shoulders. In another embodiment, the multifunctional carrier is transitionable between upright and sling carrying positions on a wearer, and the carrier body has both a front sleeve and at least two opposing side sleeves. In yet another embodiment, a lumbar belt for use with the child carrier includes a contoured lumbar panel configured to support the lumbar region of the wearer's back.



Inventors:
Parness, Michael A. (San Diego, CA, US)
Miller, Jessica A. (La Mesa, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/234045
Publication Date:
03/25/2010
Filing Date:
09/19/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/160
International Classes:
A47D13/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090255770FOLDABLE CARRYING DEVICEOctober, 2009Slater
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20050155997StrapsterJuly, 2005O'donnell
20080067210STRAP AND STRAP ACCESSORY HAVING CUSHIONING GRANULESMarch, 2008Meesey
20070108244MOUNT FOR INSTALLING ACCESSORIES ON A BICYCLEMay, 2007Chuang
20080105720Adjustable bicycle basket support frameMay, 2008Lee
20070257072Tactical quick transition sling (TQT sling)November, 2007Pena et al.
20050199667Shopping cart cup holderSeptember, 2005Cappellino et al.
20070108247Disposable convertible backpack toteMay, 2007Bardes



Primary Examiner:
VANTERPOOL, LESTER L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STETINA BRUNDA GARRED & BRUCKER (75 ENTERPRISE, SUITE 250, ALISO VIEJO, CA, 92656, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A child carrier transitionable between front and side carrying positions on a wearer, the carrier comprising: (a) a carrier body configured to support a child therein, the carrier body comprising a bottom section configured to pass between the legs of the child held in the carrier body to support the child thereon, the bottom section comprising a support sleeve; (b) a pair of adjustable shoulder straps extensible over the wearer's shoulders, each shoulder strap comprising opposing first and second ends attached to the carrier body to define a loop therebetween, and (c) a lumbar belt configured to extend through the support sleeve and about the body of the wearer; wherein the carrier body, adjustable shoulder straps and lumbar belt are configured such that the carrier body is selectively positionable (i) at the front of the wearer's body to support the carrier body in the front carrying position, or (ii) toward the side of the wearer's body to support the carrier body in the side carrying position.

2. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein the sleeve is positioned such that the carrier body is supported on the wearer's hip in the side carrying position.

3. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein a bottom edge of the support sleeve is located at the bottom of the carrier body.

4. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein the first ends of the adjustable shoulder straps are attached to a top edge of the support sleeve at an angle forming a V-shaped notch above the support sleeve.

5. The child carrier according to claim 4 wherein the carrier body comprises a pair of lower support appendages extending outwardly from opposing sides thereof, the lower support appendages being attached to the adjustable shoulder straps at a prescribed location that is spaced a preselected distance above the top edge of the support sleeve.

6. The child carrier according to claim 5 wherein the prescribed location of attachment to the adjustable shoulder strap is spaced above the top edge of the support sleeve by at least about two inches.

7. The child carrier according to claim 5 wherein the lower support appendages, adjustable shoulder straps, and carrier body cooperate to define two openings that are sized, shaped and configured to pass the child's legs therethrough.

8. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein the carrier body comprises a posterior section connected to the bottom section, the posterior section comprising: a torso support region configured to support the torso of the child; a head support region configured to support the head of the child; and a transition region between the head and torso support regions, the transition region being sized and configured to allow the head support region to be selectively moved between (i) an unfolded position for carrying of the child facing inwardly towards the wearer, and (ii) a folded position for carrying of the child facing outwardly away from the wearer, wherein in the folded position the head support region is folded down into an overlapping relation to the torso support region.

9. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein the carrier body further comprises at least one sleeve disposed on a side of the carrier body that is configured to pass the lumbar belt therethrough.

10. The child carrier according to claim 1 wherein the lumbar belt comprises; (i) a contoured lumbar panel configured to support the lumbar region of the back, the contoured lumbar panel having a curvature that is complimentary to a curvature of the lumbar region of the wearer's back; and (ii) at least one lumbar belt strap attached to the lumbar panel and extensible about the wearer.

11. A child carrier transitionable between upright and sling carrying positions on a wearer, the carrier comprising: (a) a carrier body configured to support a child therein, the carrier body comprising a front sleeve and at least two opposing side sleeves; and (b) a pair of adjustable straps attached to the carrier body and extensible over the wearer's shoulders; and (c) a lumbar belt configured to selectively extend through the front and side sleeve segments and about the body of the wearer; wherein the lumbar belt is extended through the front sleeve to support the carrier body in the upright carrying position, and the lumbar belt is extended through one of the side sleeves to support the carrier body in the sling carrying position.

12. The child carrier according to claim 11 wherein the carrier body comprises a bottom section configured to pass between the legs of a child held in the carrier body to support the child thereon, the bottom section comprising the front sleeve.

13. The child carrier according to claim 11, wherein the lumbar belt is configured to be slideably extended through the front sleeve segment such that the carrier body is selectively positionable (i) at the front of the wearer's body to support the carrier body in an upright front carrying position, or (ii) towards the side of the wearer's body an upright side carrying position.

14. The child carrier according to claim 11 wherein the carrier body comprises a pair of lower support appendages extending outwardly from opposing sides thereof, the support appendages having the opposing side sleeves formed therein.

15. The child carrier according to claim 11 wherein the carrier body comprises an interior channel extending along a longitudinal axis thereof, and wherein the carrier body further comprises a support insert configured to be slideably positionable within the channel to support the infant's head in the sling carrying position.

16. The child carrier according to claim 15 wherein the support insert is slideably positionable towards an upper end of the carrier body to support the head of the child in the sling carrying position, and is slideably positionable away from the upper end of the carrier body to support the child in the upright carrying position.

17. A child carrier configured to be worn by a wearer for the carrying of a child therein, the child carrier comprising: (a) a carrier body configured to support a child therein; (b) a lumbar support belt configured to attach to the carrier body and support the carrier body on the wearer, the lumbar support belt comprising: (i) a contoured lumbar panel configured to support the lumbar region of the wearer, the contoured lumbar panel comprising a curvature that is complimentary to a curvature of the lumbar region of the wearer; and (ii) at least one lumbar belt strap attached to the lumbar panel and extensible about the wearer; and (c) at least one shoulder strap attached to the carrier body and extensible over the wearer's shoulders.

18. The child carrier according to claim 17 wherein the contoured lumbar panel has a base panel comprising at least one of a formed rigid foam and a molded resilient material.

19. The child carrier according to claim 18 wherein the base panel curves inwardly from a top edge of the panel to a bottom edge of the panel, and wherein the base panel is of a thickness that substantially continuously decreases from a greater thickness at a middle portion of the base panel to a smaller thickness at top and bottom portions of the base panel.

20. The child carrier according to claim 18 wherein the base panel comprises: a panel frame having a top edge defining a generally arcuate shape, sloping side edges and a bottom edge defining an inwardly curved indentation; a web within the panel frame comprising first web lines radiating upwardly and outwardly from the indentation in the panel frame, and second web lines traversing the first lines; and support arches superimposed over the first and second web lines.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

STATEMENT RE: FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH/DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates generally to carriers adapted to be worn by an adult in order to support and carry an infant or other young child. More particularly, in at least one aspect, the present invention is directed to an improved multifunctional child carrier that accommodates the carrying of a child in either a front or side carrying position. The multifunctional carrier may also optionally accommodate carrying of a child in a sling position. In another aspect, the present invention is directed to an improved lumbar belt for use with the multifunctional carrier or other child carrier.

2. Related Art

Shoulder-supported child carriers are commonly used by parents and child caregivers to carry and transport infants and other young children. A common attribute of these carriers is that they offer “hands-free” operation, and thus allow the adult wearer to carry the child while leaving the hands unencumbered to perform other activities. The shoulder-supported child carriers also typically make it easier for an adult wearer to carry the child by distributing the carrying load about the wearer's shoulders and/or back, as opposed to supporting the child's weight primarily in the adult's arms. A number of different shoulder supported child carriers are currently known in the art, and the carriers come in a wide range of designs and styles. One example of currently known child carrier is a frame-type carrier that typically supports the child on the back of the wearer. However, frameless or soft-sided carriers are also becoming increasing popular, and typically support the child on the front or chest of the wearer. Still further, there has also been developed in the prior art convertible carriers that are configured to allow the infant to be supported on either the front or back of the wearer.

Carriers that allow carrying of a child on the hip of the wearer are also becoming increasingly popular because positioning the child on the hip generally mimics the carrying position that adults frequently use to transport their children without the aid of a carrier. Also, by supporting the child upon one of the hips, the wearer typically has greater freedom to move the opposing arm and hand to accomplish other tasks, and has minimal obstruction of their view. Supporting the child upon one of the hips may be particularly desirable for older and/or heavier children, as the hip provides added stability and support that may make this position more comfortable than front or back carrying positions. As such, many parents and child care providers may transition from using a front carrying child carrier that carries the child or infant in the front position when the child is very young, to using a side carrying child carrier that carries the child on the side or hip of the wearer as the child grows older.

However, a problem with current child carriers is that they typically are not capable of providing both front and side carrying functionality, and are thus limited in terms of the options they provide for carrying and transporting children. Examples of currently known infant hip carriers are found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,813,580 to Fair; U.S. Pat. No. 5,492,256 to Ive; U.S. Pat. No. 5,224,637 to Columbo; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,901,898 to Columbo. Another currently known hip carrier is sold by Playtex under the trademark Hip Hammock® and is shown in U.S. Pat. No. D425,696. Examples of currently known infant carriers suitable for carrying an infant in a front position are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,598,771 and 6,763,983, both to Norman. As these carriers generally are not readily transitionable between front and side carrying positions, a parent or child caregiver is required to purchase at least one of each, and even multiple carriers if they wish to have the option to carry the child in both front and side positions.

Yet another problem with current child carriers is that they typically are not capable of readily transitioning from front and/or side carrying positions to a sling carrying position. Carriers that act as baby slings are well known by parents and other persons involved in child care, and are capable of holding the child in a supine or semi-supine position near the body of the adult sling wearer, which can be comforting to the child and allows easy monitoring and observation of the infant on the part of the adult wearer. Indeed, various different types of baby slings are currently available from manufacturers of infant products, such as for example the Jelly Bean™ Cargo Sling from Munchkin. However, such currently available slings nonetheless do not allow for conversion to more secure and/or more conventional front or side upright carriers, and as such they can be limited in their use.

Still another problem with currently available child carriers is that they frequently do not provide adequate back support to the adult wearer. In particular, certain child carrier designs can unacceptably strain the wearer's back, which can make wearing of the child carrier uncomfortable. This may be especially true for child carriers that incorporate lumber belts that extend about the wearer's waist and/or torso to help support and/or brace the child carrier on the wearer. While such belts often include padded sections intended to cushion and lessen the strain on the lumbar region of the wearer's back, they nonetheless can become uncomfortable to the wearer, especially over long periods of time. The padded sections of the lumbar belt also typically impart minimal structural support to the lumbar belt.

Accordingly, there remains a need in the art for multifunctional child carriers that allow for versatility in terms of the positions in which a child may be held in the carrier. There is also a need for multifunctional child carriers that are readily convertible between front and side/hip carrying positions. Also, a need remains in the art for multifunctional carriers that readily convert from upright front and/or side carrying positions to sling carrying positions. There furthermore remains a need for a lumbar belt for use with child carriers that provides adequate support to a wearer's back.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention specifically addresses and alleviates the above-identified deficiencies in the art. In this regard, the present invention is directed to a multifunctional child carrier that provides for improved versatility in the carrying of a child in a number of different positions that are generally convenient and comfortable for both the child and the wearer. In one embodiment of the invention, the child carrier is transitionable between front and side carrying positions on a wearer. In this embodiment, the child carrier has a carrier body configured to support a child therein that has a bottom section configured to pass between the legs of the child held in the carrier body to support the child thereon. The bottom section of the carrier body also has a support sleeve, and the child carrier further includes a lumbar belt configured to extend through the support sleeve and about the body of the wearer. The child carrier also has a pair of adjustable shoulder straps that are extensible over the wearer's shoulders, with each shoulder strap having opposing first and second ends that are configured to attach to the carrier body to define a loop therebetween. The carrier body, adjustable shoulder straps and lumbar belt are configured such that the carrier body is selectively positionable (i) at the front of the wearer's body to support the carrier body in the front carrying position, or (ii) toward the side of the wearer's body to support the carrier body in the side carrying position.

In another embodiment of the invention, the multifunctional child carrier is transitionable between upright and sling carrying positions on a wearer. In this embodiment, the carrier has a carrier body configured to support a child therein, with the carrier body having a front sleeve and at least two opposing side sleeves. The carrier body also has a pair of adjustable straps configured to attach to the carrier body and that are extensible over the wearer's shoulders, and a lumbar belt configured to selectively extend through the front and side sleeve segments and about the body of the wearer. The lumbar belt is extended through the front sleeve to support the carrier body in the upright carrying position, and is extended through one of the side sleeves to support the carrier body in the sling carrying position.

In yet another embodiment of the invention, an improved lumbar belt is provided that is suitable for use with the multifunctional child carrier described herein or other child carrier. A version of child carrier having the improved lumbar belt has a carrier body configured to support a child therein, and the lumbar support belt configured to attach to the carrier body and support the carrier body on the wearer. The lumbar support belt includes a contoured lumbar panel configured to support the lumbar region of the back, where the contoured lumbar panel has a curvature that is complimentary to a curvature of the lumbar region of the wearer's back. The lumbar support belt also has at least one lumbar belt strap configured to attach to the lumbar panel and extend about the wearer. The child carrier having the improved lumbar belt may also optionally have at least one shoulder strap configured to attach to the carrier body that is extensible over the wearer's shoulders.

The present invention is best understood by reference to the following detailed description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These as well as other features of the present invention will become more apparent upon reference to the drawings wherein:

FIG. 1A is a perspective side view of an embodiment of a multifunctional child carrier according to the invention, depicting the carrier in a front carrying position with the child facing towards the wearer of the child carrier;

FIG. 1B is a perspective front view of the embodiment of the multifunctional child carrier of FIG. 1A, depicting the carrier in the front carrying position with the child facing away from the wearer;

FIG. 1C is a perspective side view of the embodiment of the multifunctional child carrier of FIGS. 1A-1B, depicting the carrier in a side carrying position with the child facing towards the wearer;

FIG. 2 is a perspective front view of another embodiment of a multifunctional child carrier according to the invention, depicting the carrier in a sling carrying position;

FIG. 3 is a side plan view of an embodiment of a multifunctional child carrier according to the invention;

FIG. 4 is a sectional side view of the embodiment of the multifunctional child carrier of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a partial side plan view of the embodiment of the multifunctional child carrier of FIGS. 3-4, and including opposing side sleeves;

FIG. 6 is a front plan view of the embodiment of the multifunctional child carrier of FIGS. 3-5;

FIGS. 7A-7B are sectional front views of embodiments of a carrier body according to the invention, depicting slideable support inserts.

FIG. 8A is a sectional front view of an embodiment of a lumbar belt according to the invention; and

FIG. 8B is a sectional side view of the embodiment of the lumbar belt of FIG. 8A.

Common reference numerals are used throughout the drawings and detailed description to indicate like elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The detailed description set forth below is intended as a description of the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, and is not intended to represent the only form in which the present invention may be constructed or utilized. The description sets forth the functions and sequences of steps for constructing and operating the invention. It is to be understood, however, that the same or equivalent functions and sequences may be accomplished by different embodiments and that they are also intended to be encompassed within the scope of the invention.

In one aspect, the present invention is directed to a multifunctional child carrier 10 that is readily transitionable between different carrying positions on a wearer 12 to provide improved versatility in child carrying and transport. For example, as shown in the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1A-1B, the child carrier 10 can be selectively positionable at the front 11 of the wearer's body 13 to support the child 14 in a front carrying position. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1C, the child carrier 10 is selectively positionable at the side 15 of the wearer's body 13, such as on or above the wearer's hip 16, to support the child 14 in a side carrying position. The multifunctional child carrier 10 additionally provides for versatility in terms of placement of the child 14 in the carrier 10. For example, the child 14 may be placed in the carrier facing inwardly towards the adult wearer 12, as shown for example in FIG. 1A, or may be placed in the carrier 10 facing outwardly away from the adult wearer 12, as shown for example in FIG. 1B. The multifunctional child carrier 10 thus allows for the wearer 12 to select from among various child carrying positions, thereby improving the convenience of the child carrier 10 as well as tailoring to the child transport needs of the wearer 12.

In still another version, an embodiment of which is shown in FIG. 2, the multifunctional child carrier 10 is capable of conversion to a more horizontal sling conformation for carrying of the child 14 in a supine or semi-supine position at the front 11 of the wearer 12. In this embodiment, the child carrier 10 is transitionable between upright positions, such as the upright front and upright side positions depicted in FIGS. 1A-1B and 1C above, and a sling carrying position as depicted in FIG. 2. The multifunctional child carrier 10 thus provides improved versatility in terms of child carrying positions and placement that increases options for child transport.

Referring now to FIGS. 3-6, it can be seen that the child carrier 10 generally comprises a carrier body 18 configured to support a child 14 therein, and a support harness 20 including a pair of adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b and lumbar belt 24, configured to support the carrier body on the wearer 12. The carrier body 18, lumbar belt 24 and adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b are configured with respect to one another such that the carrier body 18 is selectively positionable (i) at the front 11 of the wearer's body 13 to support the carrier body 18 in the front carrying position, or (ii) towards the side 15 of the wearer's body 13, such as on or above the wearer's hip 16, to support the carrier body 18 in the side carrying position. Suitable embodiments of carrier body 18 and support harness 22 are described in more detail below. Furthermore, it should be understood that the term “child” as referred to herein is intended to be inclusive of all children that may be suitably carried by the carrier, and thus includes very young infants as well as older babies and children such as toddlers. Also, while it is envisioned that a likely wearer 12 of the child carrier 10 would be the child's parent, the wearer 12 may also be another adult or teenager of a suitable age involved in the care of the child 14, such as a day care provider, sibling, grandparent and the like.

In the embodiment of the child carrier 10 as shown in FIGS. 3-6, the carrier body 18 comprises a bottom section 26 that is sized, shaped and configured to pass between the legs of a child 14 held in the carrier body 18 to hold and support the child 14 thereon. The carrier body further comprises a posterior section 28 connected to the bottom section 26, which provides front and/or back support for the body of the child 14. The posterior and bottom sections 28, 26 can be configured to support the child 14 both when the child 14 is placed facing inwardly towards the wearer 12, as in FIGS. 1A and 1C, or when the child 14 is placed facing outwardly away from the wearer 12, as in FIG. 1B, to provide versatility in child transport and carrying.

To support the carrier body 18 on the wearer 12, the bottom section 26 of the carrier body 18 comprises a support sleeve 35 through which the lumbar belt 24 can be extended. The sleeve 35 comprises a channel 38 formed laterally therein that is sized, shaped and configured to pass at least a portion of the lumber belt 24 therethrough. The lumbar belt 24 thus lifts both the sleeve 35 and the child 14 supported on the bottom section 26 in which the sleeve 35 is formed, thereby supporting the carrier 10 on the wearer's body. Locating the support sleeve 35 within the bottom section 26 is advantageous because positioning the sleeve 35 relatively low on the carrier body 18 can facilitate transitioning between front and side carrying positions. As such, the support sleeve 35 is preferably located towards or even at the very bottom or lowermost point of the carrier body 18. By way of explanation, it can be seen by referring to FIG. 1C that in the side carrying position, it is desirable to maintain the child's center of gravity up relatively high, with the child's weight being preferably distributed on or above the hip 16 of the wearer 12. Holding the child 14 too low in the side carrying position can potentially interfere with the wearer's movement. Instead, by properly locating the child 14 on or about the hip 16 of the wearer 12 more freedom of movement is allowed and the transition from the front to the side carrying position is rendered more practicable.

Accordingly, in one version, the child carrier 10 comprises a support sleeve 35 having a bottom edge 40a that is located at about the bottom or lowermost point of the carrier body 18, with the lowermost point of the carrier body 18 being defined as that point that is lowest to the ground when the carrier 10 is used to transport a child 14 therein. The lumbar belt 24 extended through the sleeve 35 thus lifts and supports the child 14 from a point close to, and even at, the lowest part of the child's pelvis, thereby lifting the child's center of gravity up and even above the hip 16 of the wearer 12. For example, in the version as shown, the bottom edge 40a of the sleeve 35 is located at a vertex formed between the bottom and posterior sections 26, 28, and a top 40b edge of the sleeve 35 is located at a front peripheral edge 42 of the bottom section 26. The support sleeve 35 thus supports the carrier body 18 on the wearer 12 in a position that allows for ready transitioning between front and side carrying positions, and improves the comfort and convenience of the side carrying position.

The arrangement and configuration of the carrier body 18 can also be selected according to the desired support to be imparted to the child 14. In one version, the posterior and bottom sections 26, 28 form sections of the same panel 30 of material, or material layers, that have been shaped, for example by stitching and sewing, to form the desired shape of the carrier body 18. For example, the bottom section 26 can comprise a portion of the panel 30 that is located at the bottom side of the carrier body 18, and that forms a seat panel section 32, and the posterior section 28 can comprise a portion of the panel 30 that is located at the back side of the carrier body 18, and that forms a longitudinal panel section 34 that is at an approximately 90 degree angle to the seat panel section 32. The carrier body 18 can also optionally comprise a linking panel section 36 that gradually slopes between the bottom section 26 and the posterior section 28. Loading a child 14 into the carrier 10 causes one or more of the panel sections 32 and 34 to curve and deform according to the weight and shape of the child 14. For example, the seat panel section 32 can curve and deform from the otherwise relatively flat panel section shape as shown in FIG. 3 to form a seat for the child, such that the bottom edge 40a of the sleeve 35 is at or near the bottom of the carrier body 18, and the top edge 40b of the sleeve 35 is at least slightly elevated above the bottom of the carrier body 18. The panel 30 forming the bottom and posterior sections 26, 28 can further be segmented to impart desired functional or aesthetic characteristics, and the panel 30 can also comprise multiple material layers, such as interior and exterior layers of material, layers of padding material, and the like. The carrier body 18 is preferably fabricated from a soft, pliable fabric material, such as one or more of a synthetic or natural material, and may also comprise a mesh material to provide improved breathability and air circulation.

The multifunctional child carrier 10 further comprises adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b that are extensible over the wearer's shoulders 44a, 44b, with each strap 22a, 22b comprising opposing first and second ends that are configured to attach to the carrier body 18 to define a loop therebetween, as shown for example in FIGS. 3-6. For example, in the version shown, the first ends 46a are configured to attach to the top edge 40b of the support sleeve 35, and the second ends 46b are configured to attach to opposing side edges 43a, 43b of the support sleeve 35. The portion of each strap 22a, 22b in between each of the respective first and second ends 46a, 46b thus forms a loop therebetween that is sized, shaped and configured to extend from the carrier body 18, over the wearer's shoulders 44a, 44b, and back to the carrier body 18. In the version shown, the first ends 46a of the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b are be configured to attach to the top edge 40b of the support sleeve 35 at an angle forming a V-shaped notch 48 above the support sleeve 35. This V-shaped notch 48 is desirable because it allows for the straps 22a, 22b to provide support for the child 14 held in the carrier 10 while also reducing obstructions about the head and/or neck of the child 14 when positioned facing inwardly in the carrier 10.

The shoulder straps 22a, 22b can comprise various strap configurations that may be selected to provide comfortable and secure transport of the child 14 and carrier 10. In the version as shown, the shoulder straps 22a, 22b comprise strap sections including as elongate padded shoulder sections 25a, 25b, back strap sections 27a, 27b, as well as carrier body attachment sections 29a, 29b. The elongate padded shoulder sections 25a, 25b are configured to extend over the wearer's shoulders 44a, 44b and have a padded material therein to increase the wearer's comfort. While the padded sections 25a, 25b are typically located about the wearer's shoulders, it should be understood that other sections of the shoulder straps 22a, 22b can also be padded, and alternatively the shoulder straps 22a, 22b may be absent any particular padded section. The straps 22a, 22b can be padded by inserting a cushioning material into the desired sections thereof, as well as by other means such as by sliding a tubular padded member over a portion of a shoulder strap 22a, 22b. The shoulder straps 22a, 22b also comprise back strap sections 27a, 27b that are configured to traverse the wearer's back and loop back to the carrier body 18 where they are attached at the second ends 46b to the opposing side edges 43a, 43b of the support sleeve 35. Finally, the shoulder straps 22a, 22b can comprise carrier body attachment sections 29a, 29b that are located at the first ends 46a of the straps 22a, 22b and connected to the top edge 40b of the sleeve 35. The attachment sections 29a, 29b rise up from their points of attachment on the sleeve 35 in V-shape, thereby effectively providing a compartment for supporting and carrying the child between the V-shaped attachment sections 29a, 29b of the shoulder straps 22a, 22b and the posterior and bottom sections 26, 28 of the carrier body 18.

The shoulder straps 22a, 22b can further comprise various securing members, cinching members and other strap securing and length adjustment devices. In the version shown in FIGS. 3 and 6, a securing member 50 is provided to secure the shoulder straps 22a, 22b together at the back of the wearer 12, such as by securing together the back strap sections 27a, 27b. The securing member 50 can thus assist in maintaining the shoulder straps 22a, 22b properly positioned on the wearer 12, and reduce the likelihood of the straps 22a, 22b slipping from the wearer's shoulders 44a, 44b. The securing member 50 comprises complimentary mating connectors 50a, 50b that connect to one another and that are attached to the first and second straps 22a, 22b, respectively. The back strap sections 27a, 27b can also comprise first and second segments 31a, 31b, with the first segments 31a attaching to the padded shoulder sections 25a, 25b and the second segments 31b connecting to the carrier body 18, the first and second segments 31a, 31b being connected to each other via a strap cinching adjustment connector 52 that connects the segments 31a, 31b in such a way as to allow cinching and/or tightening of one of the segments 31a, 31b with respect to the other. The shoulder straps 22a, 22b may also optionally comprise other connectors, cinching and/or strap adjustment mechanisms according to the requirements of the particular embodiment thereof.

In one embodiment of the lumbar belt 24, as shown in FIG. 3, the belt 24 comprises a reinforced lumbar region 54 to support the wearer's lower back, an elongate strap region 56 that is slideably extendable through the sleeve 35, and at least one adjustable mating connector 58 configured to releasably engage first and second opposing ends 60a, 60b of the lumbar belt 24. The reinforced lumbar region 54 desirably comprises a reinforcing material therein that maintains a shape of the lumbar region to increase support to the wearer 12. The lumbar region 54 is also preferably wider than other portions of the belt 24, and can comprise a soft and preferably breathable cover material to increase the comfort of the wearer 12. The elongate strap region 56 is sized, shape and configured such that it is readily extendable and slideable through the support sleeve 35 to allow support of the carrier body 18 thereon, as well as to allow ready transitioning between the front and side carrying positions. In the version as shown, the adjustable mating connector 58 comprises a first connector piece 58a attached adjacent an end of the reinforced lumbar region 54, and a second connector piece 58b attached to an end of the elongate strap region 56, to connect the regions of the belt 24 to one another.

The carrier body 18 as shown further comprises support appendages 62a, 62b, 64a, 64b that extend outwardly from opposing sides 65a, 65b thereof, and that assist in supporting and maintaining the child 14 within the carrier body 18. For example, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 5, the carrier body 18 comprises a pair of lower support appendages 62a, 62b that extend outwardly and at an approximately ninety degree angle to the posterior section 28 of the carrier body 18. The lower support appendages 62a, 62b are further configured to attach to the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b at prescribed locations, such as along the shoulder strap attachment sections 29a, 29b. The lower support appendages 62a, 62b thus provide lateral support to a child 14 held by the carrier body 18, acting similarly to sidewalls to contain the child 14 within the carrier 10. The lower support appendages 62a, 62b, adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b, and carrier body 18 cooperate to define two openings 66a, 66b on either side of the carrier body 18 that are sized, shaped and configured to pass the child's legs therethrough. In particular, for a child 14 placed in a seated position atop the bottom section 26 of the carrier body 18, the lower support appendages 62a, 62b extend over the top of the child's leg and meet the V-shaped attachment sections 29a, 29b of the shoulder straps 22a, 22b that connect back to the bottom section 26 via the sleeve edge 40b. The legs and body of the infant 14 are thus securely held in the carrier 10.

In one version, the carrier body 18 is absent any front panel section, and instead the V-shaped attachment sections 29a, 29b of the shoulder straps 22a, 22b serve to retain the infant 14 in the carrier body 18. In this version, the lower support appendages 62a, 62b are attached to the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b at prescribed locations 68a, 68b that is spaced a preselected distance above the top edge 40b of the support sleeve 35. The adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b thus extend from the prescribed locations of attachment 68a, 68b across the space between the lower support appendages 62a, 62b and the bottom section 26, to their point of attachment to the top edge 40b of the support sleeve 35. The attachment sections 29a, 29b of the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b thus form front restraints to secure the infant 14 in the carrier 10. In one version, the prescribed locations of attachments 68a, 68b of the lower appendages 62a, 62b to the attachment sections 29a, 29b of the shoulder straps 22a, 22b are spaced apart from the top edge 40b of the support sleeve 35 by at least about two inches, and may even be spaced apart by a greater amount.

In the version as shown in FIGS. 3-6, the lower support appendages 62a, 62b are attached to the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b via adjustable mating connectors 70a, 70b. For example, each adjustable shoulder strap 22a, 22b can comprise a first connector piece 72a attached thereto, and the distal end 74a, 74b of each lower support appendage 62a, 62b can comprise a complimentary second connector piece 72b attached thereto, with at least one of the connector pieces 72a, 72b also optionally comprising a strap and strap cinching mechanism to adjust a distance between the straps 22a, 22b and lower support appendages 62a, 62b. The lower support appendages 62a, 62b and shoulder straps 22a, 22b can further comprise size adjustment mechanisms configured to be capable of being adjusted to modify the girth of a compartment 76 formed between the lower support appendages 62a, 62b, shoulder straps, 22a, 22b and remainder of the carrier body 18. For example, the lower support appendages 62a, 62b can comprise a first attachment piece 78a on an interior side thereof. The shoulder straps 22a, 22b can also comprise outwardly extending flaps 80a, 80b with second attachment pieces 78b thereon that are configured to attach to the first attachment pieces 78a in manner that adjusts a width of the side support piece formed by the lower support appendage 62a, 62b and flaps 80a, 80b. In on version, the attachment pieces 78a, 78b comprise patches of connecting hook and loop material, such as Velcro™, although the attachment pieces 78a, 78b can also comprise complimentary snaps, zippers or buttons. The attachment pieces 78a, 78b provide size adjustment by allowing for selection of a girth and/or circumference of the carrier 10. For example, the attachment pieces 78a, 78b can comprise complimentary strips of Velcro™ that can be selectively attached in different locations with respect to each other, such that positioning a flap 80a, 80b with its peripheral end 82a, 82b located closer to the distal end 74a, 74b of the lower support appendage 62a, 62b provides a relatively wide carrier body circumference, and positioning the flap 80a, 80b with its peripheral end 82a, 82b closer to the proximal end of the lower support appendage 62a, 62b reduces the size of the compartment 76 of the carrier body 18.

The carrier body 18 further comprises upper support appendages 84a, 84b that extend outwardly from opposing sides 65a, 65b thereof. The upper support appendages 84a, 84b provide lateral support to the child's head and/or body, and can help retain the child 14 within the carrier body 18. The upper support appendages 84a, 84b can further comprise elongate straps 86a, 86b attached thereto that are configured to attach at prescribed locations to the v-shaped attachment sections 29a, 29b of the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b. For example, the elongate straps 86a, 86b can have distal ends comprising mating connectors 88a, 88b that are configured to releasably attach to the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b at prescribed locations 90a, 90b. The mating connectors 88a, 88b can also comprise cinching mechanisms that allow for tightening and loosening of the elongate straps 86a, 86b to adjust the position of the carrier body 18 with respect to the shoulder straps 22a, 22b and/or wearer 12. For example, the elongate straps 86a, 86b can be tightened to pull the carrier body 18 more upright and close to the wearer's body 13, and can be loosened to release the carrier body 18 into more of a reclining position angled outwardly from the wearer's body 13. The upper support appendages 84a, 84b may be configured with respect to the rest of the carrier body 18 such that, the arms of a smaller child 14 pass through the space formed between the upper and lower support appendages 62a, 62b, 84a, 84b on either side of the carrier body 18, as shown for example in FIGS. 1A-1B. The upper support appendages 84a, 84b may also be configured such that the arms of a taller child 14 rest on or above the upper support appendages 84a, 84, as shown for example in FIG. 1C.

As described above, the carrier body 18 comprises a posterior section 28 connected to the bottom section 26 that is configured to support the body of the child 14, including the child's torso and head. In one version, as shown for example in FIGS. 1A-1B, the posterior section 28 has a foldable portion to allow for greater comfort and visibility on the part of the child 14 when placed in an outwardly facing position. For example, the carrier body 18 can comprise a body support region 94 configured to support the body of the child 14, a head support region 96 configured to support the head of the child 14, as well as a foldable transition region 92 between the head and body support regions 96, 94. The transition region 92 is sized and configured to allow the head support region 96 to be selectively moved between an unfolded position, for example for carrying of the child 14 facing inwardly towards the wearer 12 as shown in FIG. 1A, to a folded position, for example for carrying of the child 14 facing outwardly away from the wearer 12 as shown in FIG. 1B. In the folded position the head support region 96 is folded down into an overlapping relation to the body support region 94, as shown in FIG. 1B. In one version, the foldability of the transition region 92 is imparted by the pliability of the material used to form the carrier body 18. However, the foldability of the transition region 92 may also be imparted by pre-forming a folding crease in the transition region 92, or by other means. As shown in FIG. 1A, the unfolded position provides support to a child's head (or even the torso for larger children) when the child 14 is placed facing the wearer 12, and the folded position reduces obstruction of the child's view and provides a more comfortable position for a child 14 placed facing away from the wearer 12. The posterior section 28 of the carrier body 18 can also optionally be secured in the unfolded position by providing connecting snaps or other attachment mechanism capable of securing the head support region 96 to the body support region 94. In one version, the carrier body 18 further comprises a detachable pillow section (not shown) that can be used in one or more of the folded and unfolded positions for improved comfort, which pillow can be detached and removed from the carrier body 18 if desired.

Referring now to FIG. 2, yet another version of the child carrier 10 is shown that allows for conversion of the carrier 10 to a sling carrying position. In this embodiment, the child carrier 10 is configured to convert between upright carrying positions, such as the upright front and side positions described above, to a more horizontal sling carrying position where the child 14 is carried in a supine or semi-supine position. The sling position may be especially suitable for the carrying of infants, although other small children could also be carried in the sling under suitable circumstances. The carrier body 18 according to this embodiment thus provides for multiple modes of carrying children and infants, including carrying the child 14 upright facing inwardly or outwardly, carrying the child 14 upright on the side or hip, and carrying the child 14 at the front of the wearer's body 13 in the sling position. The sling embodiment allows for versatility in carrying the child 14, improving both the wearer and child's comfort by virtue of the different carrying position options.

In one version, the child carrier 10 is configured to provide the sling carrying functionality by including both a front support sleeve 100, as well as at least two opposing side sleeves 98a, 98b that are configured to selectively pass the lumbar belt 24 therethrough, embodiments of which are shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 5. For example, the front sleeve 100 may correspond to the support sleeve 35 described above that forms a part of the bottom section 26 of the carrier body 18, and comprises the laterally-extending channel 38 therethrough. The side sleeves 98a, 98b are located on the opposing sides 65a, 65b of the carrier body 18, with each sleeve also having a channel 39 passing therethrough. However, the channels 39 in the opposing side sleeves 98a, 98b can be more longitudinally oriented along the axis of the carrier body 18 to provide for the more horizontal sling position. In one version, as shown in FIG. 5, the opposing side sleeves 98a, 98b each form a portion of the lower support appendages 62a, 62b. The lumbar belt 24 is configured to selectively extend through the front and side sleeves 100, 98a, 98b and about the body 13 of the wearer 12 to allow for selectively transitioning between the upright and sling carrying positions. Thus, the lumbar belt 24 is extended through the front sleeve 100 to support the carrier body 18 in upright carrying positions, as shown for example in FIGS. 1A-1C, and is extended through either of the side sleeves 98a, 98b to support the carrier body 18 in the sling carrying position, as shown for example in FIG. 2. The side sleeve 98a, 98b through which the lumbar belt 24 is extended in the sling position can be selected according to the desired position of the child 14 with respect to the wearer 12.

In yet another version, the sling carrying position is further supported by providing a support insert 102 that imparts further rigidity to the posterior section 28 of the carrier body 18 in the sling position to provide support for the child being carried therein. An embodiment of a carrier body 18 having the support insert 102 is shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B. In particular, the support insert 102 may be configured to be inserted within an interior channel 104 that extends along a longitudinal axis of the carrier body 18. The support insert 102 may be slideably positionable within the interior channel 104 such that that insert is positioned towards an upper end 106 of the carrier body 18 to support the head and/or body of the child 14 in the sling carrying position, and slideably positionable away from the upper end 106 of the carrier body 18 to support the child 14 in the upright carrying position. In one version, the support insert 102 comprises an elongate bar 105 slideably positionable within the interior channel 104. The elongate bar 105 has one or more grasping holes 108 formed therein that are configured to be grasped by the wearer 12 and/or another person to slide the elongate bar 105 within the interior channel 104 to the desired position. As can be seen in FIG. 7B, the carrier 10 positioned in the sling position may have the elongate bar 105 slid towards the upper end 106 of the carrier body 18 such that the elongate bar 105 provides support and rigidity to the upper end 106 of the carrier 10. As seen in FIG. 7A, the elongate bar 105 can be slid downwardly when the carrier 10 is in the upright position as the extra rigidity is not required. The elongate bar 105 may also be slid downwardly to allow the head support region 96 of the carrier body 18 to be folded over the body support region 94 when the child 14 is positioned upright and facing away from the wearer 12 in the carrier 10. The carrier 10 configured to provide the sling carrying position may further comprise the adjustable shoulder straps 22a, 22b and lumbar belt 24 that are the same as, or modified from, those described above in relation to the carrier 10 used in the upright front and side positions. In the version as shown, the shoulder straps 22a, 22b can be crossed in front of the wearer 12 by connecting the mating connectors from each shoulder strap to connectors to opposing upper support appendages that are the reverse of those connected to in the upright position. Crossing the straps 22, 22b in front of the wearer 12 can help to pull the sling body 18 about the infant 14 and provide more support to the carrier body 18.

Referring now to FIGS. 8A and 8B, an improved lumbar support belt 24 is provided that is suitable for use with the particular embodiments of the child carrier 10 as described herein. The improved lumbar support belt 24 additionally provides enhanced features that render it suitable for use with carriers 10 other than those specifically described, and as such the use of the lumbar belt 24 is not intended to be limited to only those particular child carrier embodiments described herein. In general, the improved lumbar belt 24 may be used with any suitable carrier body 18 configured to support a child 14 therein, and may also optionally be used in combination with at least one shoulder strap 22a, 22b configured to attach to the carrier body 18 and that is extensible over the wearer's shoulders 44a, 44b. The lumbar support belt 24 is configured to attach to the carrier body 18, such as via extension through a support sleeve or other attachment mechanism, to support the carrier body 18 on the wearer 12.

In one embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B, the improved lumbar support belt 24 comprises an innovative contoured lumbar panel 110 that is configured to support the lumbar region of the wearer's back. The contoured lumbar panel 110 comprises a base panel 114 that is formed of a material suitable to at least partially conform to the shape of the wearer. For example, the base panel 114 may be formed of one or more of a molded resilient material, such as a molded plastic material, and/or a formed rigid foam, such as a polyethylene (PE) foam. In one version, the base panel 114 is formed of a material with sufficient flex and/or resilience to allow the panel 110 to flex and conform to the shape of the wearer. The contoured lumbar panel 110 also has a curvature that is generally complimentary to a curvature of the lumbar region of the wearer's back to enhance the comfort of the wearer 12. For example, as shown in FIG. 8B, the contoured panel 110 curves inwardly from a top edge 112a of the panel 110 to a bottom edge 112b of the panel 110 with a degree of curvature that is complimentary to, and even matches, the curvature of the lumbar region of the wearer 12. By “complimentary” it is meant that the curvature has a profile similar to that of the average wearer's lumbar region, and does not exceed curvature limits that would make the panel 110 excessively uncomfortable or otherwise unsuitable for use by such an average wearer 12. The complimentary curvature of the contoured panel 100 thus provides for improved comfort and support for the wearer 12 of the child carrier 10.

The shape of the base panel 114 may be further selected to provide a curvature and/or flex of the support panel 110 that imparts improved comfort and wearability. In one version, the base panel 114 comprises varying thicknesses along the curvature of the lumbar panel 110, with the thickness being selected to provide the desired degree of flex in the select regions of the panel 110. For example, as shown in FIG. 8B, the base panel 114 can comprise a greater thickness at a middle portion 116 thereof, and a smaller thickness at top and bottom portions 118a, 118b of the base panel 114, providing more flex at the top and bottom portions 118a, 118b and a relatively stiffer and less yielding structure toward the middle 116 of the panel 110. The thickness of the base panel 114 may decrease in a substantially continuous fashion from the middle portion 116 to the top and bottom portions 118, 118b to provide a substantially continuous change in the degree of flexibility across the contoured panel 110.

The lumbar support panel 110 can further comprise one or more layers 120 of material covering the base panel 114 to improve the comfort of the panel 110. For example, in the version as shown in FIG. 8B, the lumbar support panel 110 can comprise an inner foam layer 120a over the front side 121a of the base panel 114 to provide cushioning and comfort. The support panel 110 can further comprise a breathable mesh layer 120b on the front side of the panel 110 over the foam layer 120a, as well as another breathable mesh layer 120c over the back side 121b of the base panel 114. The breathable mesh layers 120a, 120c help to circulate air to the wearer 12 to keep the wearer 12 cool and comfortable while wearing the lumbar support belt 24.

The contoured support panel 110 can further be shaped and configured to comfortably fit the wearer 12 of the child carrier 10. For example, in one version the lumber panel 110 comprises top and bottom edges 112a, 112b having lateral curvatures. For example, the top edge 112a can define a generally arcuate shape, and the bottom edge 112b can define an inwardly curved indentation that is configured to provide support and comfort, as shown in FIG. 8A. In another example, the base panel 114 can be formed and/or molded into a panel shape that comprises an exterior panel frame 124, a web of the material 126 within the frame 124, and support arches 128 superimposed over the web 126, as also shown in FIG. 8A. In the version as shown, the panel frame 124 comprises a top edge 112a defining a generally arcuate shape, sloping side edges 130a, 130b, and a bottom edge 112b defining the inwardly curved indentation 122. The panel 110 thus provides a comfortably curved shape suitable for positioning and wearing on the wearer's back. The web 126 within the panel frame 124 comprises first web lines 126a radiating upwardly and outwardly from the indentation in the panel frame 124, and further comprises second web 126b lines traversing and criss-crossing the first lines 126a. The web 126 provides a flexible support structure that allows for flex in directions needed for comfortable wearing of the lumbar support panel 110. Finally, the support arches 128 superimposed over the web 126 are capable of bracing and supporting the support panel 110. For example, the support arches 128 can comprise a trio of arched support beams 128a, 128b, 182b, with first and second beams 128a, 128b curving inwardly from first and second opposing edges 130a, 130b of the support panel 110, respectively, and attaching to the top edge 112a of the support panel 110. A third support beam 128c connects to opposing side edges 130a, 130b of the support panel 110 and curves inwardly in-between the opposing side edges 130a, 130b.

Thus, the improved lumbar belt 24 can be understood to impart enhanced comfort and support to the wearer 12 in the carrying of a child 14 in a child carrier 10. The contoured support panel 110 braces and supports the wearer's back, while also providing an amount of flex that allows the wearer 12 to comfortably move and travel as well as bend or sit with the carrier 10, without excessive discomfort to the wearer 12.

Embodiments of the invention thus improve the versatility and comfort of child carriers 10 to enhance the carrying and transport of children 14. The multifunctional child carriers 10 allow for greater ease of selection among different child carrying positions, and well as ready transitioning between the different positions. The child carriers 10 may also provide for ready transition between front and side carrying positions, as well as upright and sling carrying positions. The improved lumber belt 24 further enhances comfort in the wearing of multifunctional and other child carriers 10.

Additional modifications and improvements of the present invention may also be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. Thus, the particular combination of components and steps described and illustrated herein is intended to represent only certain embodiments of the present invention, and is not intended to serve as limitations of alternative devices and methods within the spirit and scope of the invention. Along these lines, it should be understood that the carrier body 18 can comprise other configurations of shoulder straps 22a, 22b and/or lumbar belts 24 other than those specifically shown, and similarly the improved lumbar belt 24 described herein may be used with other infant and child carriers other than those specifically described. The child carrier may also comprise pockets or other attachments for the transport of bottles, toys, keys, and other child care or everyday items. The child carrier body 18, shoulder straps 22a, 22b and lumbar belt 24 also may take any of a variety of forms that are known or later developed in the art, and further contemplates that existing or newly formed configuration, such as newly formed carrier body, shoulder strap and/or lumbar belt configurations, should fall within the scope of the present invention. Also, it should be understood that the carrier body 18, shoulder straps 22a, 22b and lumber belt 24 can comprise various different materials and material layers that are other than those specifically described, such as different combinations of padding and mesh materials.