Title:
SELF-INFLATING NURSING PILLOW
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An expandable nursing pillow is provided together with a method of using same to support an infant during nursing. The expandable pillow can be provided in a compressed state. The expandable pillow is biased to expand from the compressed state to an expanded state. The expandable core in the expanded state occupies an expanded volume, and in the compressed state occupies a compressed volume, the compressed volume being substantially smaller than the expanded volume. When released from the compressed state, the expandable pillow automatically expands to the expanded state, in which state the pillow can support a nursing infant. After nursing, the expandable pillow can be returned to the compressed state.



Inventors:
Lastman, Jodi (Toronto, CA)
Application Number:
11/530172
Publication Date:
03/15/2007
Filing Date:
09/08/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/644
International Classes:
A47G9/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20030154551Pacifier keeperAugust, 2003Parker
20060265808Face cradle pillowNovember, 2006Phillips
20040261180Infant sleep supportDecember, 2004Birns
20080184489Infant head positioning deviceAugust, 2008Pham
20040226097PORTABLE DIAPER CHANGING STATIONNovember, 2004Wiese
20090064412Baby Diaper-Changing Pad CoverMarch, 2009Habimana
20080052826Infant sleeperMarch, 2008Stapley
20090265855Crib Mattress SheetOctober, 2009Hawk
20070044245Mattress with triple zone topperMarch, 2007Bryant et al.
20090078690FIBER REINFORCED HEATING UNIT AND MATTRESS WITH THEREOFMarch, 2009Lee et al.
20060179568Multi-purpose infant care deviceAugust, 2006Campbell



Primary Examiner:
GROSZ, ALEXANDER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BERESKIN & PARR LLP/S.E.N.C.R.L., s.r.l. (TORONTO, ON, CA)
Claims:
1. A nursing pillow comprising: an expandable core having an expanded state for supporting an infant during nursing, and a compressed state, wherein the expandable core in the expanded state occupies an expanded volume, and in the compressed state occupies a compressed volume, the compressed volume being substantially smaller than the expanded volume; a shell for surrounding the expandable core; and a closure mechanism for retaining the expandable core in the compressed state; wherein the expandable core is biased to expand from the compressed state to the expanded state when the closure mechanism is released, and the expandable core in the expanded state provides a front member for extending across a front of a body of a person, a first peripheral member for extending back from a first end of the front member along a right side of the body of the person, and a second peripheral member for extending back from a second end of the front member along a left side of the body of the person.

2. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 1 wherein the front member, first peripheral member and second peripheral member together define an inner surface dimensioned to engage a waist of the person.

3. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 1 further comprising a washable cover for covering the shell.

4. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 1 further comprising an opening for facilitating airflow into a hollow interior of the expandable core to inflate the expandable core and for facilitating airflow out of the hollow interior to deflate the expandable core.

5. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 4 wherein the expandable core comprises a resilient foam, the resilient foam being operable to bias the expandable core to expand from the compressed state to the expanded state and to draw air into the hollow interior via the opening.

6. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 5 wherein the opening is a non-closable vent, such that the hollow interior is maintained in fluid communication with an external atmosphere; and, the resilient foam is operable to maintain the expandable core in the expanded state when a weight of thirty pounds is distributed over and supported by a support surface of the expandable core and the hollow interior is in fluid communication with the external atmosphere.

7. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 6 wherein the support surface of the expandable core is less than 300 square inches.

8. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 5 wherein the compressed volume is less than half the expanded volume.

9. The nursing pillow of claim 5 wherein the opening is a closable valve for restricting airflow out of the hollow interior.

10. The nursing pillow as defined in claim 6 wherein the resilient foam is operable to maintain the expandable core in the expanded state when a weight of at least fifty pounds is distributed over and supported by the support surface of the expandable core.

11. A method of supporting an infant during nursing, the method comprising: a) providing an expandable pillow in a compressed state, the expandable pillow being biased to expand from the compressed state to an expanded state, wherein the expandable core in the expanded state occupies an expanded volume and in the compressed state occupies a compressed volume, the compressed volume being substantially smaller than the expanded volume; b) releasing the expandable pillow from the compressed state such that the expandable pillow automatically expands to the expanded state; c) supporting the infant on the expandable pillow in the expanded state; and d) returning the expandable pillow to the compressed state.

12. The method as defined in claim 11 wherein step d) comprises compressing the expandable pillow into the compressed state and then securing the expandable pillow in the compressed state using a closure mechanism.

13. The method as defined in claim 12 wherein the expandable pillow comprises an expandable interior and an opening for providing airflow into and out of the interior; step b) comprises drawing air into the expandable interior via the opening; and, step d) comprises discharging air out of the expandable interior via the opening.

14. The method as defined in claim 13 wherein the expandable pillow comprises a resilient foam, the opening is a vent that remains open during step c), and the resilient foam is operable to bias the expandable pillow to expand from the compressed state to the expanded state and to draw air into the expandable interior via the vent, and to maintain the expandable pillow in the expanded state during step c).

15. The method as defined in claim 11 wherein the compressed volume is less than half the expanded volume.

16. The method as defined in claim 13 wherein the opening is a closable valve for restricting airflow out of the hollow interior.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a support device for use during nursing, and more specifically to a self-inflating nursing pillow and a method of operating same.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

New mothers are faced with a myriad of challenges, most of which involve responsibilities and duties never before experienced. Handling a newborn infant can be frightening; for example, largely irrational fears of dropping a baby can effectively paralyze a new parent or an inexperienced caregiver. Coupling these types of fears with the sometimes intimidating task of encouraging the baby to successfully latch on for breastfeeding can result in a new mother prematurely abandoning her efforts at breastfeeding, finding it too overwhelming to hold and support a fidgeting, often crying baby while coincidently trying to expose and position her breast properly for presentation to the baby.

Given the incredible benefits bestowed upon a baby by breast milk and the breastfeeding process, mothers are typically encouraged to exert maximum effort to initiate and maintain a successful breastfeeding routine. To that end, dedicated training programs and support groups exist to provide guidance to those learning to breastfeed their babies. Additionally, devices such as specialty bras and nursing tops have been made available in order to assist the new mother with the process. Other devices, such as cushions and pillows, have been offered as a means of providing a new mother with greater comfort and sense of security regarding the support of her baby.

As the baby grows, such cushions and pillows continue to offer the mother greater comfort, but more so by assisting with the support of the growing weight of the baby. Depending upon the length of time that the mother continues to breastfeed, the baby may grow to a weight over thirty, forty or even fifty pounds. Such a baby is not easily supported for an extended period of time, especially in a relaxed, supine position, wherein potentially damaging strain can be placed on the mother's back the absence of a helpful support.

A variety of nursing pillows are available; however, there remains a need for an improved nursing pillow, together with a method of operating this nursing pillow.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly described, in an embodiment, the present invention provides a self-inflating nursing pillow, wherein firm yet resilient features provide a buoying surface for assisting a nursing mother in supporting her baby during breastfeeding, wherein a collapsible configuration enables minimized size during periods of non-use and transport, and wherein self-inflating technology facilitates automatic maximization of size upon engagement for use.

According to its major aspects and broadly stated, the present invention is a compressible, crescent shaped pillow, wherein a generally water-impervious shell surrounds a porous crescent-shaped cushion. The shell is preferably sealable via a valve-type closure. In other embodiments, a washable covering removably encloses the shell, a closure mechanism facilitates the maintenance of the pillow in a compressed state, and a dynamic inflation mechanism can selectively provide deflation of the pillow.

More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention comprises a transportable pillow for use by a nursing mother, wherein an expandable core is retained within a flexible outer-covering. In one configuration, the expandable core is high-density foam and the flexible outer-covering is waterproof nylon or vinyl, capable of maintaining an airtight seal. The seal is preferably engaged via a valve defined in a surface of the outer-covering, wherein if the valve is open, airflow is free to flow into and out of the expandable core, and if the valve is closed, the core is sealed from all airflow. Preferably, an exterior covering is also provided. In one embodiment, the exterior covering is removable and washable to assist in maintaining a clean surface suitable for contacting a baby. Also, an elongated strap can be affixed to the pillow, wherein a hook and loop fastener is provided to enable fastening of the strap around the pillow when the pillow is in a compressed, rolled-up configuration. Additionally, a transport bag can be included, in which the rolled-up and compressed pillow may be easily stored and transported.

The expandable foam core can be generally rectangular-shaped with a pair of opposing, generally triangular-shaped support members extending outwardly from one elongated side edge, thereby defining a crescent-type shape. The waterproof outer-covering can be shaped and sized to contain the foam core in a fully expanded state. The exterior covering can also be shaped and sized to contain the foam core in the expanded state, while a zipper can be provided between the opposing triangular-shaped support members to facilitate removal of the exterior covering from the pillow, if desired, and to position the zipper proximate to the mother during use.

The strap can extend from a generally centralized location on an end of the pillow, such that when the valve is opened, the pillow may be compressed and rolled from the opposing end and the strap may be wrapped there-around, securing the pillow in a minimized configuration. The minimized pillow can be retained within a drawstring carry bag to facilitate transport.

In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, there is provided a nursing pillow comprising i) an expandable core having an expanded state for supporting an infant during nursing, and a compressed state, wherein the expandable core in the expanded state occupies an expanded volume, and in the compressed state occupies a compressed volume, the compressed volume being substantially smaller than the expanded volume; ii) a shell for surrounding the expandable core; and, a closure mechanism for retaining the expandable core in the compressed state. The expandable core is biased to expand from the compressed state to the expanded state when the closure mechanism is released. The expandable core in the expanded state provides a front member for extending across a front of a body of a person, a first peripheral member for extending back from a first end of the front member along a right side of the body of the person, and a second peripheral member for extending back from a second end of the front member along a left side of the body of the person.

In accordance with an aspect of an embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of supporting an infant during nursing. The method comprises a) providing an expandable pillow in a compressed state, the expandable pillow being biased to expand from the compressed state to an expanded state, wherein the expandable core in the expanded state occupies an expanded volume and in the compressed state occupies a compressed volume, the compressed volume being substantially smaller than the expanded volume; b) releasing the expandable pillow from the compressed state such that the expandable pillow automatically expands to the expanded state; c) supporting the infant on the expandable pillow in the expanded state; and d) returning the expandable pillow to the compressed state.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be better understood by reading the Detailed Description of the Preferred and Alternate Embodiments with reference to the accompanying drawing figures, in which like reference numerals denote similar structure and refer to like elements throughout, and in which:

FIG. 1A is an overhead view of a self-inflating nursing pillow, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1B is a perspective view of a transport bag for the self-inflating nursing pillow of FIG. 1A, according to an aspect of this embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a partial cut-away side view of the self-inflating nursing pillow of FIG. 1A; and

FIG. 3 is a flowchart showing a method of supporting an infant during nursing according to an aspect of one embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In describing the preferred and alternate embodiments of the present invention, as illustrated in the figures and/or described herein, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity. The invention, however, is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific element includes all the technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish similar functions.

Referring to FIGS. 1A-B and 2, a self-inflating nursing pillow in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is illustrated. The self-inflating nursing pillow 10 comprises core 20, shell 40, covering 60, valve 80, closure mechanism 100, and transport bag 120. Cushion 22 can be formed from porous, high-density foam having a firm yet resilient nature, capable of functioning as a buoying support structure. Such a composition is merely optional for cushion 22; other suitable materials can be utilized, equivalently accomplishing the same function, without departing from the intended scope of the present invention.

Cushion 22 can be substantially defined by a generally rectangular-shaped body 24 and two generally triangular-shaped peripheral support members 26a and 26b, wherein the combination of body 24 and support members 26a and 26b defines the overall crescent shape of cushion 22. Shell 40 can define a crescent shape suitably sized to retain cushion 22 therein. Shell 40 can be formed from waterproof materials, thereby protecting cushion 22 from potential contamination by such materials and facilitating the retention of an airtight seal about core 20. Further, shell 40 can be formed from flexible materials, to facilitate folding, rolling, or other adaptive configurations of pillow 10.

Shell 40 can be preferably formed from vinyl, nylon, or any appropriate similarly performing material, without limitation.

An opening in shell 40 can be a sealable valve 80, preferably located in an accessible position on a surface 42 of shell 40. Valve 80 can be a simple plug-type valve, wherein removal of cap 82 from valve port 84 opens airflow into and out of core 20 within shell 40, and securing of cap 82 into valve port 84 prevents airflow into or out of core 20, effectively sealing shell 40. In some embodiments, valve 80 is soft to reduce the risk of injury to the baby.

Covering 60 can be shaped to enable generally fitted placement about shell 40, wherein a washable material is preferred for the construction of covering 60. In some embodiments, covering 60 can be removable. For example, a zipper (not shown) can be provided between opposing triangular-shaped support members 26a and 26b. This location positions the zipper proximate to the mother during use of self-inflating nursing pillow 10. However, the zipper could alternately be installed in any location on self-inflating nursing pillow 10, wherein suitable protective covering and/or recessed mounting could be incorporated, Further, other types of closure means could be utilized, such as, for exemplary purposes only, a hook and loop fastener, snaps, magnets, and/or an elastic loop. Preferably, covering 60 defines valve aperture 66, adapted to render valve 80 accessible with covering 60 in place. Further, and also preferably, covering 60 defines feedhole 68 adapted to render closure mechanism 100, preferably strap 102, accessible with covering 60 in place. In other embodiments, covering 60 could be replaced by a layer of material placed on top of the pillow (cut, say, into a crescent shape) and attached, for example, by a hook and loop fastener.

Closure mechanism 100 helps to maintain the self-inflating nursing pillow 10 in a compressed state. In one configuration, closure mechanism 100 is elongated strap 102 affixed to shell 40, wherein hook and loop fastener 104a and 104b is provided to fasten strap 102 around pillow 10 when the nursing pillow is in a compressed state. Strap 102 can extend from a generally centralized location on a narrow end of pillow 10 to facilitate wrapping thereof about the rolled cross-length of pillow 10.

According to a further aspect of this embodiment of the invention, transport bag 120 is included for use with self-inflating nursing pillow 10, wherein a pillow 10 according to embodiments of the present invention could be compressively rolled-up and easily stored and transported therein, secured via drawstring 122. Preferably, hangloop 124 is provided to enable quick and easy hanging.

Further, in an alternate embodiment, closure mechanism 100 could be an elastic loop, wherein the loop could stretch around the compressed and rolled pillow 10 during periods of non-use.

In an alternate embodiment, closure mechanism 100 could comprise a pocket defined on an outer surface of shell 40, and/or on an outer surface of covering 60. After compression and rolling or folding of pillow 10, the pillow 10 in a compressed state can be inserted within the pocket. The pocket can then secure the pillow 10 by folding back upon itself.

In still another alternate embodiment, core 20 could be filled with a plurality of firm yet compressible particles in lieu of cushion 22.

In yet another alternate embodiment, shell 40 could be non-waterproof, or could have a water-impermeable layer incorporated amongst a surrounding layer or layers of washable fabric, such as, for exemplary purposes only, terry cloth, or cotton.

In yet another alternate embodiment, shell 40 could be treated with an anti-microbial agent.

In still another alternate embodiment, shell 40 could be removable, wherein a zipper-lock or other means of sealable closure could facilitate access to core 20.

In another alternate embodiment, valve 80 could be a twist-type valve, wherein cap 82 would not be removed, but would be twisted to enable airflow.

In yet another alternate embodiment, the valve 80 could be a different opening, such as a non-closable vent wherein actual sealed closure would not occur, but core 20 would instead remain in fluid communication with the external atmosphere so as to “breathe,” with cushion 22 fully inflating in the absence of activation of the restrictive closure mechanism. By this means, the core 20 can continue to provide a support for a baby even in the event of a puncture or a breach of the air tight seal. In one embodiment, the foam is resilient enough to maintain the expandable core in the expanded state when a weight of at least thirty pounds is distributed over and supported by the support structure wherein the surface of the support structure is less than 300 square inches. In another embodiment, the foam is resilient enough to support a weight of at least fifty pounds distributed over the support structure.

In another alternate embodiment, covering 60 could be disposable, or could incorporate a plurality of disposable layers.

In yet still another alternate embodiment, transport bag 120 could include an alternate closure mechanism. That is in lieu of drawstring 122, flexible thin metal strips could provide a spring-release type access and closure mechanism about the bag opening.

In another alternate embodiment, the self-inflating mechanism of the present invention could be altered to incorporate self-inflating chemical agents, tubing, and/or any other type of self-inflating technology that would be appropriate for such a configuration. In all of these embodiments, the expansion of the foam, or other mechanism, can act to draw air in through valve 80 to inflate core 20. In some embodiments, the volume of the expanded state of the core can be substantially greater than the volume of the core in the compressed state, as much as twice or even three or four times the volume of the core in a compressed state.

In use, self-inflating nursing pillow 10 can be removed from transport bag 120 and closure mechanism 100 can be deactivated. Value 80 can be opened, and the automated dynamic inflation mechanism inflates core 20. After the desired fullness is achieved, valve 80 can be closed. A person, such as the nursing mother, can position the front of inflated pillow 10 proximate her waist, supporting her arms and/or elbows proximate peripheral triangular support members 26a and 26b, and resting baby, generally, across pillow 10. Following feeding, valve 80 can again be opened, and pillow 10 can be compressively rolled, secured via closure mechanism 100, and replaced into transport bag 120.

Turning now to FIG. 3, a method 200 of supporting an infant during nursing according to an alternate embodiment of the invention is illustrated in a flowchart.

The method 200 comprises providing a person, such as a mother, with an expandable pillow for use during nursing 202. The expandable pillow is in a compressed state, having a compressed volume, but is biased to acquire an expanded state with a substantially larger expanded volume. The expandable pillow may be self-inflating nursing pillow 10, whereby self-expanding resilient foam provides the expandable pillow with its natural bias to acquire the expanded state. In one embodiment, the expandable pillow is secured in its compressed state by a closure mechanism, such as a strap 102.

The method 200 further comprises releasing the expandable pillow from its compressed state 204 and allowing it to automatically achieve its expanded state 206. In one embodiment, This is accomplished by simply releasing the closure mechanism and allowing the self-expanding resilient foam to expand. In another embodiment, a closable valve, such as valve 80, is opened, allowing air to expand the self-expanding foam core.

Once the expandable pillow is in the expanded state, method 200 further comprises supporting the infant on a support structure of the pillow 208. The mother then places the expandable pillow proximate her waist to facilitate nursing.

Once nursing is complete, method 200 further comprises returning the expandable pillow to its compressed state 210. This facilitates transportation of the pillow, as the compressed volume of the expandable pillow is substantially smaller than the expanded volume of the pillow. In embodiments, the expanded volume may be two, three or even four times the volume of the compressed volume. Compression of the expandable pillow can be accomplished by a person applying a sufficiently concentrated force to the pillow, driving air out of the pillow through an opening such as a vent or a valve. In some embodiments, the pillow can be secured in the compressed state by the closure mechanism, or in other embodiments by closing a valve such as valve 80.

The expandable pillow usable in this method could also include any of the variant embodiments discussed above.

In another alternate embodiment, a method of supporting an infant during nursing is provided, wherein a nursing pillow, such as self-inflating nursing pillow 10, is provided in a compressed state having a compressed volume, The nursing pillow is then released from its compressed state, automatically expanding into an expanded state having an expanded volume. The infant is placed onto the nursing pillow while it is in the expanded state, and the mother places the nursing pillow proximate her waist to facilitate nursing. Once nursing is complete, the pillow can be returned to the compressed state, wherein the compressed volume facilitates transportation of the pillow. The nursing pillow usable in this method could also include any of the variant embodiments discussed above.

Having thus described exemplary embodiments of the present invention, it should be noted by those skilled in the art that the within disclosures are exemplary only, and that various other alternatives, adaptations, and modifications may be made within the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to the specific embodiments illustrated herein, but is limited only by the following claims.