Title:
Breast cup
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A breast cup or breast shield, in particular for breast pumps, with a funnel-shaped main body preferably made of electrically non-conducting material. The funnel-shaped body is sized and shaped to contact a breast and includes one or more electrodes incorporated in a wall of the funnel-shaped main body at predetermined locations. Each of the one or more electrodes is provided on an inside face of the funnel-shaped main body with a contact surface adapted to contact the breast skin, is led through the wall and, on an outside face of the funnel-shaped main body, includes an electrical connection contact.



Inventors:
Larsson, Michael (Zug, CH)
Application Number:
10/503673
Publication Date:
04/14/2005
Filing Date:
02/07/2003
Assignee:
LARSSON MICHAEL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
600/438, 600/476, 600/549
International Classes:
A61B5/05; A61B5/053; A61M1/06; (IPC1-7): A61B5/05; A61B8/00; A61B5/00; A61M1/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ROY, ANURADHA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Michael H Baniak (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
1. 1-15. (canceled)

16. A breast cup, in particular for breast pumps, with a funnel-shaped main body made of electrically non-conducting material, said funnel-shaped body being sized and shaped to contact a breast, one or more electrodes incorporated in said funnel-shaped main body at predetermined locations, each said one or more electrodes having at least a part extending through to an inside face of said funnel-shaped main body with a contact surface adapted to contact the breast skin, an electrical connection contact with each said one or more electrodes on an outside face of said funnel-shaped main body.

17. The breast cup as of claim 16, wherein said funnel-shaped main body is of a truncated cone shape including a smaller diameter end including a tubular extension which is attachable to a milk-collecting container.

18. A breast cup for a breast pump for placing on a mother's breast, having one or more sensors arranged in said breast cup adapted for detecting changes in the mother's breast during the expression of breast milk.

19. The breast cup of claim 18, wherein each said one or more sensors is arranged at a distance from the nipple.

20. The breast cup of claim 18, wherein said breast cup comprises a funnel-shaped main body which is sized and shaped to contact the mother's breast, and wherein said one or more sensors is arranged in a wall of said funnel-shaped main body.

21. The breast cup of claim 20, wherein each said one or more sensors is incorporated into said wall at a predetermined location.

22. The breast cup of claim 20, wherein each of said one or more sensors includes a contact surface for the breast skin.

23. The breast cup of claim 18, wherein said one or more sensors is an electrode.

24. The breast cup of claim 20, wherein each said one or more electrodes has a lead through said wall and to an outside face of said breast cup with an electrical connection contact for said lead or leads accessible from said outside face.

25. The breast cup of any of claims 18 through 24, further including one or more optical sensors.

26. The breast cup of any of claims 18 through 24, further including one or more acoustic sensors.

27. The breast cup of any of claims 18 through 24, further including one or more thermal sensors.

28. A method for detecting changes in a mother's breast during the expression of breast milk from the breast, comprising: providing a breast pump having a breast cup with one or more sensors spaced at a distance from the nipple; positioning the breast cup on the mother's breast during expression of milk; and measuring changes in the breast by means of said one or more sensors.

29. The method of claim 28, wherein said sensors measure changes by one or more of electrical, optical, thermal, and audible sensing.

30. The method of claim 28, further comprising carrying out an impedance measurement for said sensing.

31. The method of claim 28, further including generating and detecting ultrasound.

32. A device for detecting one or more parameters associated with breastmilk expression in a human female, comprising: a breast shield having an interior part within which a portion of the breast is received including the nipple; a sensor associated with said breast shield, said sensor adapted to detect a parameter associated with breastmilk expression.

33. The device of claim 32 further including a plurality of sensors.

34. The device of claim 33 wherein said sensors are attached to said breast shield.

35. The device of claim 34 wherein said sensors have a portion which extends to said breast shield interior part and is in contact with the breast.

36. The device of claim 35 wherein said sensors include an electrode extending from said contact through the breast shield and terminating in a connection for attachment to a wire.

37. The device of claim 36 wherein each said contact is electrically isolated.

38. The device of claim 37 wherein said sensors include a sensor which detects changes in an electrical field within the breast.

39. The device of claim 34 wherein said sensors include an optical sensor.

40. The device of claim 34 wherein said sensors include a sensor for detecting changes in a magnetic field within the breast.

41. The device of claim 34 wherein said sensors include a sensor for detecting pressure changes of the breast.

42. The device of claim 34 wherein said sensors include a sensor for detecting ultrasound.

43. A method for detecting changes in a mother's breast during the expression of breast milk from the breast, comprising: providing a breast pump having a breast cup with one or more sensors spaced at a distance from the nipple; positioning the breast cup on the mother's breast during expression of milk; and detecting changes in the breast by means of said one or more sensors.

44. The method of claim 43, wherein said sensors detect changes by one or more of electrical, optical, thermal, and audible sensing.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a breast cup, in particular for breast pumps, and to a method for detecting changes in a mother's breast when expressing milk from the mother's breast.

STATE OF THE ART

Breast cups for suction pumps and for suction devices for expressing breast milk are widely available in many different designs and are used all over the world.

Breast-feeding a baby is not always straightforward. The causes of problems may lie with the mother or with the baby. Expressing breast milk by means of suction pumps or suction devices, also called breast pumps, can also be problematic for some mothers.

Nowadays, therefore, in the development of suction pumps and of their operating conditions, increased efforts are being made to better understand what is going on inside the mother's breast during expression of breast milk.

During use of the breast pump, however, it is difficult to carry out exact measurements on the mother's breast.

Such measurements would, however, provide information on the processes going on during the stimulation phase and during the actual expression of milk.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

It is therefore an object of the present invention to make available a device and a method which permit straightforward measurement of the processes going on inside the breast, even during the expression of milk.

This object is achieved by a breast cup having the features of patent claims 1 and 3 and by a method having the features of patent claim 12.

The surprisingly simple solution according to the invention uses a breast cup designed in accordance with claims 1 and 3. Thus, according to the invention, a breast cup is used which is provided with sensors. The sensors used can be all types of sensors suitable for detecting changes in the mother's breast, in particular electrodes, optical sensors, acoustic sensors or thermal sensors.

Accordingly, various measurement methods are possible, for example X-rays, ultrasound, purely electronic measurement currents which record resistance and impedance between two spatially distinct areas of the breast, etc. Electrodes are placed on the breast skin for measuring the electronic signals, optical sensors for measuring the X-rays, and acoustic sensors for measuring ultrasound.

The design of the breast cup according to the invention allows measurements to be carried out on the breast in general and also, in a special design as claimed in claim 2, during the expression of breast milk. The method according to the invention and the device according to the invention provide information in particular on the process known as milk surge.

Further advantageous embodiments and variants of the method are set out in the dependent patent claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

Illustrative embodiments of a breast cup according to the invention are explained in more detail below with reference to the drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a perspective and purely diagrammatic view of a breast cup according to the invention, and

FIG. 2 shows a similar view looking at the open end of the breast cup according to FIG. 11.

EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a breast cup 1 of truncated cone shape which, via a tubular connection piece 2, leads to attachments 3 for a breast pump (not shown) and 4 for a milk-collecting container (not shown).

The cup 1 with the parts 2-4, made of transparent plastic for example, is itself of conventional design.

The cup funnel 1′ is provided with a number of electrodes 5 arranged at predetermined locations. On the inside face of the funnel wall 1′, the electrodes have contact surfaces 5″, and, on the outside face of the funnel wall, they have connection contacts 5′.

When the cup 1 is placed on a breast, the contact surfaces 5″ lie on the breast cup, while a desired voltage can be applied via the connection contacts 5′ (as parts of the electrodes leading through the funnel wall).

This cup construction also permits measurements via the electrodes during the expression of breast milk. The corresponding appliance for evaluating the measurements can be integrated in the breast pump or can be a separate appliance.

Instead of or in addition to the electrodes 5, other types of sensors can also be arranged in the breast cup, for example acoustic sensors, optical sensors or thermal sensors. Depending on the type of sensor, it does not necessarily need to have a contact surface 5″. For example, in the case of optical sensors, it is sufficient for them to be disposed sufficiently close to the breast surface. When using optical sensors, it is advisable if at least the area of the breast cup immediately surrounding the sensor is made transparent to the optical wavelength used for the measurement, or at least no reflections are permitted on the inside face of the breast cup.

Depending on the type of sensors used, the breast cup and its main body do not necessarily have to be made of an electrically non-conducting material. If using electrodes as sensors, it may also suffice for only the areas of the breast cup which are adjacent to the electrodes to be made electrically non-conducting.

As can be discerned from the figures, the nipple of the mother's breast protrudes into the funnel opening. The sensors are thus arranged at a distance from the nipple, so that the latter is not disturbed during the expression of milk.