Title:
Infant Carrier
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person that includes a central panel, a first side panel, a second side panel, a first infant seat and a fastening mechanism. The first side panel is attached to the central panel and has a first aperture formed therein. The second side panel is attached to the central panel and has a second aperture formed therein. The first infant seat is attached to the central panel. The first infant seat is adapted to receive a portion of the infant. The fastening mechanism is operably attached to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel for securing the first side panel and the second side panel around a torso of the person.



Inventors:
Hiniduma-lokuge, Prasanga D. (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Application Number:
13/231936
Publication Date:
09/20/2012
Filing Date:
09/13/2011
Assignee:
HINIDUMA-LOKUGE PRASANGA D.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D13/02
View Patent Images:
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20040222257Carrying strap and manufacture thereofNovember, 2004Stanley Jr. et al.
20070056998SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR BEVERAGE STORAGE AND CONCEALMENTMarch, 2007Olson
20050035165LOCK MOUNT OF A BICYCLEFebruary, 2005Tsai
20040074936Soft-sided cooler with quick access openingApril, 2004Mcdonald
20060081672Bag having a self-positioning strapApril, 2006Cheldin



Primary Examiner:
WAGGENSPACK, ADAM J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DICKE, BILLIG & CZAJA (FIFTH STREET TOWERS 100 SOUTH FIFTH STREET, SUITE 2250, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55402, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person, the apparatus comprising: a central panel; a first side panel attached to the central panel, wherein the first side panel has a first aperture formed therein; a second side panel attached to the central panel, wherein the second side panel has a second aperture formed therein; a first infant seat attached to the central panel, wherein the first infant seat is adapted to receive a portion of the infant; and a fastening mechanism operably attached to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel for securing the first side panel and the second side panel around a torso of the person.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first side panel and the second side panel are attached to opposite edges of the central panel.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first aperture is formed in the first side panel proximate an upper edge thereof and wherein the second aperture is formed in the second side panel proximate an upper edge thereof.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, and further comprising an infant leg receptacle attached to the central panel.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, and further comprising a second infant seat attached to the central panel, wherein the second infant seat is adapted to receive a portion of the infant.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the central panel, the first side panel and the second side panel comprise an inner layer, an outer layer and an insulating layer positioned between the inner layer and the outer layer.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, and further comprising a phase change material mounted with respect to the central panel.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the infant seat comprises a bottom portion and two side portions, wherein a leg aperture extends through the infant seat intermediate the bottom portion and each of the side portions.

9. An apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person, the apparatus comprising: a flexible wrapping member comprising a free side edge and a plurality of sections that extend from the free side edge, wherein the plurality of sections adapted for wrapping around a torso of the person, wherein the plurality of sections comprise a front panel and a back section that extends from the front panel, wherein the front panel comprises a top terminal edge, a bottom terminal edge and an interior surface and wherein the front panel has a width from the top terminal edge to the bottom terminal edge; a reversible attachment element comprising 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, wherein the first part of the attachment element is located along the width of the front panel, and wherein the second part of the attachment element is located along the back section of the wrapping member; and an inner seat attached to the interior surface of the front panel, wherein the inner seat is 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.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the front panel comprises an inner layer, an outer layer and an insulating layer positioned between the inner layer and the outer layer.

11. The apparatus of claim 9, and further comprising a phase change material mounted with respect to the front panel.

12. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the front panel is formed by an inner layer and an outer layer, wherein a pocket is defined between the inner layer and the outer layer, wherein the pocket forms a container for another member and wherein the front panel further comprises an opening into the pocket.

13. The apparatus of claim 9, 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 9, further comprising at least one additional inner seat attached to the interior surface of the front panel.

15. A method to simultaneously carry and incubate a prematurely born infant, the method comprising: placing the infant in a first infant seat that is attached to a central panel of an infant carrier, wherein the infant carrier further comprises a first side panel and a second side panel that are both attached to the central panel, wherein the first side panel and the second side panel each have an aperture formed therein; positioning the infant carrier so that the first infant seat is adjacent to a chest of the person; extending one of the person's arms through each of the apertures; securing the first side panel to the second side panel with a fastening mechanism attached to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel to hold the infant against the chest of the person so that the person may carry and incubate the infant.

16. The method of claim 15, and further comprising: wrapping a sash across the central 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.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the first side panel and the second side panel are attached to opposite edges of the central panel, wherein the first aperture is formed in the first side panel proximate an upper edge thereof and wherein the second aperture is formed in the second side panel proximate an upper edge thereof.

18. The method of claim 15, and further comprising: forming the infant seat with a bottom portion and two side portions, wherein a leg aperture extends through the infant seat intermediate the bottom portion and each of the side portions; and supporting at least a portion of the infant's legs by placing at least a portion of the infant's legs in an infant leg receptacle attached to the central panel.

19. The method of claim 15, and further comprising attaching a second infant seat to the central panel, wherein the second infant seat is adapted to receive a portion of the infant.

20. The method of claim 15, and further comprising: forming at least one of the central panel, the first side panel and the second side panel with an inner layer, an outer layer and an insulating layer positioned between the inner layer and the outer layer; and mounting a phase change material with respect to the central panel.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/959,135, which was filed on Dec. 18, 2007, and which claimed priority to U.S. Applic. No. 60/871,579, which was filed on Dec. 22, 2006, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention pertains to infant carriers and more particularly to those facilitating skin-to-skin contact between the infant and mother, in premature or term infants that are low birth-weight, for example, according to the concept of Kangaroo Care.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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 and low birth-weight 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 and that can be made at very low cost.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An embodiment of the invention is directed to an apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person. The apparatus includes a central panel, a first side panel, a second side panel, a first infant seat and a fastening mechanism.

The first side panel is attached to the central panel and has a first aperture formed therein. The second side panel is attached to the central panel and has a second aperture formed therein. The first infant seat is attached to the central panel. The first infant seat is adapted to receive a portion of the infant. The fastening mechanism is operably attached to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel for securing the first side panel and the second side panel around a torso of the person.

Another embodiment of the invention is directed to an apparatus to carry an infant against a chest of a person. The apparatus includes a flexible wrapping member, a reversible attachment member and an inner seat.

The flexible wrapping member includes a free side edge and a plurality of sections that extend from the free side edge. The plurality of sections is adapted for wrapping around a torso of the person. The plurality of sections includes a front panel and a back section that extends from the front panel. The front panel includes a top terminal edge, a bottom terminal edge and an interior surface. The front panel has a width from the top terminal edge to the bottom terminal edge.

The reversible attachment element includes 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 is located along the width of the front panel. The second part of the attachment element is located along the back section of the wrapping member.

The inner seat is attached to the interior surface of the front panel. The inner seat is 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.

Another embodiment of the invention is directed to a method of simultaneously carrying and incubating a prematurely born infant. The infant is placed in a first infant seat that is attached to a central panel of an infant carrier. The infant carrier further includes a first side panel and a second side panel that are both attached to the central panel. The first side panel and the second side panel each have an aperture formed therein.

The infant carrier is positioned so that the first infant seat is adjacent to a chest of the person. One of the person's arms is extended through each of the apertures. The first side panel is secured to the second side panel with a fastening mechanism attached to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel to hold the infant against the chest of the person so that the person may carry and incubate the infant.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings are included to provide a further understanding of embodiments and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification. The drawings illustrate embodiments and together with the description serve to explain principles of embodiments. Other embodiments and many of the intended advantages of embodiments will be readily appreciated as they become better understood by reference to the following detailed description. The elements of the drawings are not necessarily to scale relative to each other. Like reference numerals designate corresponding similar parts.

FIG. 1 is a back view of an infant carrier according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged view of a central region of the infant carrier of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a back view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 in a tied configuration.

FIG. 4 is a close up front view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 in the tied configuration.

FIG. 5 is a back view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 with an infant placed therein.

FIG. 6 is a front view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 with the infant placed therein.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 in a swaddle configuration.

FIG. 8 is a front view of a sash for use in conjunction with the infant carrier of FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is back view of the infant carrier of FIG. 1 with a multiple seat configuration.

FIG. 10 is a top view of pieces of material that are used to fabricate the infant carrier of FIG. 1.

FIG. 11 is an assembly diagram for fabricating the infant carrier of FIG. 1 from the pieces of material illustrated in FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a front view of a mother wearing an infant carrier, which holds an infant, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a rear view of the mother of FIG. 12, showing a back side of the infant carrier.

FIG. 14 is a front view of the infant carrier of FIG. 12 where an upper end of a front panel is not connected.

FIG. 15 is a front view of the infant carrier of FIG. 12 where the upper end of the front panel is connected.

FIG. 16 is an interior plan view of the infant carrier of FIG. 12.

FIG. 17 is an exterior plan view of the infant carrier of FIG. 12.

FIG. 18 is a section view through a front panel of an infant carrier of FIG. 12.

FIGS. 19A-19E are schematics outlining some steps in a method for wrapping the infant carrier of FIG. 12 around a torso.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of the interior of the infant carrier of FIG. 12.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the infant carrier of FIG. 12, having been fastened in a wrapped configuration.

FIG. 22 is a plan view of an interior portion of the front panel of the infant carrier of FIG. 12.

FIG. 23 is a plan view of the portion of the infant carrier of FIG. 12, wherein a sash is shown wrapped around an infant, held therein.

FIG. 24 is a plan view of the interior of the front panel portion of the infant carrier of FIG. 12.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

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. Certain 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. 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.

The structure of the infant carriers described herein may offer sufficient comfort and/or cover a sufficient portion of the mother's torso so that the infant carrier may be worn instead of a conventional shirt or blouse.

Thus, embodiments of the present invention may be used as transport incubator, for the aforementioned relatively long distance travel. Alternatively, the invention may be used 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.

An infant carrier 12 according to an embodiment of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 1. The infant carrier 12 may generally include a central panel 20, a first side panel 22 and a second side panel 24 where the first side panel 22 and the second side panel 24 are positioned on opposite sides of the central panel 20.

The central panel 20 may be formed with a width that is approximately the same size as a width of a torso on which it is intended to be worn. In certain embodiments, the width of the central panel 20 may be between about 12 inches and about 24 inches.

The central panel 20 may be formed with a height that is approximately the same as a length of the infant that is intended to be placed in the infant carrier 12. Forming the central panel 20 with this height enables a substantial portion of the infant to be covered with the central panel 20 when placed in the infant carrier 12. In certain embodiments, the height of the central panel 20 may be between about 12 inches and about 24 inches.

An infant seat 30 is provided on an interior surface of the central panel 20, as most clearly illustrated in FIG. 2. The infant seat may include a bottom portion 32 and two side portions 34. Intermediate the bottom portion 32 and each of the side portions 34, an aperture 36 may be formed in the infant seat 30. Each of the apertures 36 is adapted to receive one of the infant's legs.

The infant seat 30 thereby provides support to the infant along the bottom of the infant and along at least a portion of each side of the infant to thereby retain the infant in a relatively stationary position therein.

An infant leg receptacle 40 may be provided on the interior surface of the central panel 20 beneath the infant seat 30. The infant leg receptacle 40 is a partially enclosed region that is adapted to receive at least a portion of the infant's legs. The infant leg receptacle 40 thereby enhances the ability to maintain the body temperature of the infant within a desired range.

The first side panel 22 and the second side panel 24 may each be formed with a similar shape. As such, the following description is provided with respect to only the first side panel 22.

Proximate an upper edge of the first side panel 22, an aperture 50 is formed therein. The aperture 50 is formed with a height and a width that are sufficiently large so that a person wearing the infant carrier 12 may extend an arm through each of the apertures 50 without the apertures 50 fitting too closely such that the person would experience discomfort.

On the other hand, the aperture 50 should not be too large because the large aperture would provide space for a portion of the infant's skin to be exposed. Such exposure could negatively impact the ability of the infant carrier to maintain the body temperature of the infant within a desired range.

The upper edge of the first side panel 22 above the aperture 50 should be sufficiently large to distribute the weight of the infant over a sufficiently large area to minimize the potential of the person wearing the infant carrier 12 experiencing discomfort. In certain embodiments, the width of the upper edge of the first side panel 22 above the aperture 50 is at least one inch.

While not illustrated, it is possible to include a padding material in the upper edge of the first side panel 22 above the aperture 50 to further reduce the potential of a person who is wearing the infant carrier from experiencing discomfort.

The first side panel 22 may be formed with a width that is sufficiently large so that the first side panel 22 extends around a least a portion of the side of the torso of the person wearing the infant carrier 12. When it is intended to use the infant carrier 12 in regions where the ambient temperature is relatively cool, the first side panel 22 may be formed with a width that is sufficiently large so that the first side panel 22 extends over at least a portion of the back portion of the torso of the person that is wearing the infant carrier, as illustrated in FIG. 3. In certain embodiments, the first side panel 22 may be formed with a width that is between about 6 inches and about 18 inches.

Attached to an edge of the first side panel 22 that is opposite the central panel 20 is a belt 52, which may be used for securing the infant carrier 12 around the torso of the person wearing the infant carrier 12. To enhance the ability to tie the belt 52, the belt 52 may be formed with a length that is sufficiently long so that a distal end of the belt 52 may extend all the way around the torso of the person wearing the infant carrier 12 so that the belt 52 may be tied in front of the torso by the person wearing the infant carrier 12.

As an alternative to tying the belt 52, it is possible to provide a fastening device on the belt 52. An example of one such fastening device is a hook and loop fastener such as is available under the designation VELCRO®.

The infant carrier 12 may include more than one infant seat 30. The multiple infant seats 30 may be formed with a similar configuration and may be attached at different heights on the central panel 20. Providing the multiple infant seats 30 on the infant carrier 12 enables the infant carrier 12 to continue to be used with the infant as the infant grows such that the infant's head can be positioned above the upper edge of the central portion 20 while the infant carrier 12 covers a substantial portion of the infant.

To enhance the ability of the infant carrier 12 to maintain the body temperature of the infant placed therein, at least a portion of the infant carrier 12 may include insulation placed therein. In one such embodiment, a pouch 60 with insulating material placed therein may be attached to an exterior surface of the central panel 20, as illustrated in FIG. 4. It is also possible for a phase change material to be used in conjunction with this embodiment, as is discussed in more detail herein.

In one embodiment, the infant carrier 12 is fabricated from 7 pieces of material, which are set forth in FIG. 10. The pieces of material may be fabricated from a variety of materials. The material used to fabricate the infant carrier 12 should have a relatively high insulating value.

In an initial step of fabricating the infant carrier 12, the seams may be sewed as illustrated in step 1 in FIG. 11. Next, the folds in the material are sewn as illustrated in step 2. Components a, b and c are sewn together, as illustrated in step 3a. The seat is attached to the central panel, as illustrated in step 3b. Next, the central panel is attached to the sewn together components a, b and c, as illustrated in step 3c. Finally, the ties are attached to the side panels, as illustrated in step 3d.

In operation, the infant 10 is placed into the infant seat 30 so that the infant's legs extend through the apertures 36, as illustrated in FIG. 5. A lower portion of the infant's legs extend into the infant leg receptacle 40. When the infant 10 is in the infant seat 30, at least a portion of the infant's chest may not be covered by the infant seat 30 so that there may be direct contact between the infant's chest and the torso of the person wearing the infant carrier 12.

An upper edge of the central region 20 may be sufficiently high so that only a portion of the infant's head extends above the upper edge of the central region 20, as illustrated in FIG. 6. Such a configuration provides support to the infant's head while providing sufficient area to ensure that the infant can readily breathe.

As an alternative to the infant carrier 12 being worn around the torso of an adult, the infant carrier 12 may be used to swaddle the infant 10, as illustrated in FIG. 7. In such a configuration, the first side panel 22 and the second side panel 24 are wrapped around the infant 10 and then secured with the belts 52. The presence of the insulation on the front panel may be helpful when the infant carrier 12 is used in the swaddle configuration because the insulation and/or phase change material may retain some of the heat from the mother before the infant was swaddled.

In another embodiment, a sash 80 is used in conjunction with the infant carrier 12, as illustrated in FIG. 8. The sash 80 has an elongated configuration that extends over one of the person's shoulders and then is secured beneath an opposite arm. The sash 80 thereby further increases the insulation provided by the infant carrier 12.

FIG. 12 is a front view of a mother wearing an infant carrier 102, which holds an infant 10, according to some embodiments of the present invention. FIG. 13 is a rear view of the mother of FIG. 12, showing a back side of infant carrier 102, according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 12-13 illustrate a flexible wrapping member 120 of carrier 102 wrapped around a torso of the mother and including a plurality of sections. The plurality of sections includes a front panel 104, whose exterior surface 132, according to some embodiments, is waterproofed, and a back section 106. The front panel 104 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 106 is shown traversing across a back of the mother.

Back section 106 may extend directly from front panel 104, 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 120 is held wrapped around the torso by coupling a free side edge 122 of front panel 104 to a side edge 112 of back section 106, which has been brought around from the back side of the mother, under an arm of the mother to meet with front panel 104.

FIG. 12 illustrates an attachment element 162, in the form of a zipper, which extends along a width of front panel 104, which width traverses a height of the torso. Element 162 reversibly couples back section 106 to front panel 104, for holding wrapping member 120 around the torso.

Attachment element 162 may be a two-way zipper so that the mother may unzip element 162 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. 16-17 and FIGS. 20-21.

FIG. 13 illustrates back section 106 including side portions 134 and a central portion 194, which portion 194 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 134 are elasticized.

According to some embodiments, back section 106 encloses the mother's back to retain warmth, while according to alternate embodiments, back section 106 is more open to allow air flow along the mother's back, for example, wherein central portion 194 is formed by straps 904 only, or wherein all, or a portion of back section 106 is formed from a vented material, such as a mesh fabric. It should be noted that, according to some embodiments, back section 106 is formed from a single solid piece of material.

FIGS. 12-13 further illustrate wrapping member 120 including an optional waist band 108, which is coincident with a bottom terminal edge 128 of front panel 104 and further extends along a bottom terminal edge of back section 106 to encircle a waist, or hips, of the mother, and being in close contact therewith.

A snugly fitted waist band 108 can help to keep infant 10 warm, by preventing air entry between bottom edge 128 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 108 may be a separate band, elastic or non-elastic, which is adjoined to front panel 104 and back section 106, or may be formed from lower portions of front panel 104 and/or back section 106. For example, the lower edges of the front panel 104 and/or back section 106 may be folded back onto themselves and stitched to form a tubular opening. The 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 134 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 120 around the torso. Also, it should be noted that the mother may also loosen waist band 108 via attachment element 162, which is in the form of the aforementioned two-way zipper.

FIG. 12 illustrates wrapping member 120 also including a sash 140. The sash 140 is shown transparent in FIG. 12, for the purposes of illustration, to facilitate the viewing of infant 10 and other elements of carrier 102, for description herein.

According to some embodiments, sash 140 is joined in proximity to edge 112 of back section 106, and is configured to wrap over and across front panel 104 from beneath a first shoulder of the mother to over a second shoulder of the mother, when back section 106 is coupled to front panel 104, as illustrated.

According to the illustrated embodiment, sash 140, when wrapped, helps to secure infant 10 inside front panel 104 and against the mother's chest; sash 140 covers the head of infant 10 and provides support to the neck and head of infant 10.

A tightness of wrapped sash 140 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 150, shown in FIGS. 14-15, which holds sash 140 in place.

According to some preferred embodiments, sash 140 is attached to front panel 104, in proximity to attachment element 162, 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 104 has been separated from back panel 106, at attachment member 162, sash 140 may be wrapped around front panel 104 and infant 10, to cover and keep warm infant 10, who rests against the interior surface of front panel 104, for at least five to ten minutes.

As will be described below, in conjunction with FIGS. 22-23, 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. 14-15 are additional front views of infant carrier 102, wherein a back shoulder strap 144 is shown extending from back section 106.

FIGS. 14-15 illustrate a first part 150A of attachment member 150 coupled to sash 140, and a second part 150B of attachment member 150 coupled to back shoulder strap 144. According to the illustrated embodiment, first part 150A is formed by a plurality of buttons 105, and second part 150B is formed by a looped fastener configured to mate with any of buttons 105, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 15.

FIG. 15 illustrates sash 140 extending over front panel 104 to meet with back shoulder strap 144 at the second shoulder, and second part 150B of attachment member 150 holding sash 140 in place, by mating with one of buttons 105. With reference to FIGS. 14-15, it should be appreciated that a tightness of wrapped sash 140 may be adjusted by fastening second part 150B to a different button 105.

However, it should be noted that alternative reversible attachment members, for securing sash 140 in place, which are formed by any other type of fastener know in the art, are within the scope of the present invention.

FIGS. 12 and 14 further illustrate front panel 104 including a pocket 190, for example, formed between an inner layer of material and an outer layer of material, which is accessible via an opening 191 in front panel 104. Although FIG. 12 illustrates opening 191 located on an exterior side of front panel 104, opening 191 may alternately be located along a top terminal edge 126 of front panel 104, or on an interior side of front panel 104.

Pocket 190 may extend over an entirety of front panel 104 or over just a portion thereof. Pocket 190 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).

The phase change material may be inserted or removed as desired, for example, to regulate a temperature of the space between front panel 104 and the mother's chest. According to some embodiments, opening 191 into pocket 190 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 102 further includes an inner seat, which is attached to an interior surface of front panel 104, 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 102 may be particularly important for premature infants, who otherwise might slide about within the space between front panel 104 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. 16, 20, 22 and 23.

FIGS. 16-17 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. 16-17 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. 16 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. 22 and 24.

According to FIGS. 16-17, 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. 18. FIGS. 16-17 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. The 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. 16-17, 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. 19A-19E, 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. 19A-19E 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. 19A-19B 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. 19B, 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. 19C.

Alternatively, infant 10 may be positioned in seat 280 after front panel 204 is wrapped over the front side of the person. FIG. 19C 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. 19D. 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. 19D, so that button holes 228 can be brought around to mate with buttons 226, as illustrated by the arrows in FIG. 19E.

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. 16A) 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. 19E, it may be appreciated that carrier 200 can allow for hands-free carrying of the enclosed infant 10.

To help the person to properly position wrapping member 210 for wrapping, as shown in FIGS. 19C-E, interior surface 214 of front panel 204 is a different color than that of an interior surface 260 (FIG. 16) 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. 16) 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. 12, 14, 16 and 17 and to FIG. 18 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. 18 is a section view through front panel 104, 204 of wrapping member 20, 210 according to some embodiments. FIG. 18 illustrates front panel 104, 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. 18 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. The added insulation may be important when carrier 102, 200 is used as an incubator that retains the wearer's 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 104, 204, can prevent dehydration of the infant carried within carrier 102, 200. Alternatively, or in addition, a removable waterproof layer may be included, for example, in pocket 90 of front panel 104 (FIG. 12), or in one of the air pockets shown in FIG. 18, to accommodate for various humidity levels of the surrounding environment.

According to some embodiments, at least front panel 104, 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 102, 200, which includes a PCM, can maintain a desired temperature, or temperature range, for the infant carried within the carrier 102, 200, such as between approximately 36° C. and approximately 38° C. Carrier 102, 200 may further include a temperature monitor, for example, a thermometer, so that the wearer may monitor the temperature within the carrier 102, 200. Thus, if a pocket is included in carrier 102, 200, for example, pocket 90, which was previously described for carrier 102 (FIGS. 12 and 14), 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. 16-17, 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 102 (FIGS. 12-13), 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. 13.

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. 12, and similar to that shown in FIG. 23.

Turning now to FIGS. 20-21, an infant carrier 5, according to some alternate embodiments, will be described. FIGS. 20-21 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. 20 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. 12 and 19A-19E, respectively.

FIGS. 20-21 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. 21 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. 20, 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. 16), including two leg openings and an upper opening, through which the infant may be inserted, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 22.

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. 22, 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. 18), 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. 18), 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 104, 204, and either or both of front panels 4, 204 may also include a separable portion like portion 530.

Although not shown in FIGS. 20-21, it should be appreciated that a sash 740, which is shown in FIG. 23, 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. 23, 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. 12 and 14), or sash 240 of wrapping member 21 0 (FIG. 19E), to further support infant 10 carried in carrier 5. With reference back to FIGS. 16-17 and 19A-19E, 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. 23.

FIG. 22 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. 22, inner seats 580, 581 and 582 may be fixedly attached to interior surface 514.

According to an alternate embodiment, which is illustrated in FIG. 24, 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. 22, inner seats 580 and 583 of FIG. 24 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.

In the preceding detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. In this regard, directional terminology, such as “top,” “bottom,” “front,” “back,” “leading,” “trailing,” etc., is used with reference to the orientation of the Figure(s) being described. Because components of embodiments can be positioned in a number of different orientations, the directional terminology is used for purposes of illustration and is in no way limiting. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural or logical changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. The preceding detailed description, therefore, is not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims.

It is contemplated that features disclosed in this application, as well as those described in the above applications incorporated by reference, can be mixed and matched to suit particular circumstances. Various other modifications and changes will be apparent to those of ordinary skill.