Title:
HARNESS SYSTEM FOR AN INFANT OR YOUNG CHILD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A harness system for an infant. In an embodiment, the harness system comprises a unitary body including a front section to engage at least a portion of the anterior of the infant, a rear section to engage at least a portion of the posterior of the infant, and an intermediate section extending between the front section and the rear section to engage the groin area of the infant. In addition, the harness system comprises a pair of shoulder straps, each having a front end coupled to the front section and a rear end coupled to the rear section. Further, the harness system comprises a pair of lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap is coupled to one of the shoulder straps. Still further, the harness system comprises a back support member encircling the unitary body and positioned adjacent the waist of the infant.



Inventors:
Winn, Rodney W. (Houston, TX, US)
Lujan, Jorge (Cypress, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/556209
Publication Date:
01/24/2008
Filing Date:
11/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALEX, JAMES S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CONLEY ROSE, P.C. (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A harness system for an infant comprising: a unitary body including a front section to engage at least a portion of the anterior of the infant, a rear section to engage at least a portion of the posterior of the infant, and an intermediate section extending between said front section and said rear section to engage the groin area of the infant; a pair of shoulder straps, each having a front end coupled to said front section and a rear end coupled to said rear section; a pair of lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap is coupled to one of said shoulder straps; and a back support member encircling said unitary body and positioned adjacent the waist of the infant.

2. The harness system of claim 1 wherein each lifting strap comprises a connected end and a free end, wherein said connected end of each lifting strap is coupled to one of said shoulder straps and said free end of each lifting strap includes a handle.

3. The harness system of claim 2 further comprising two connecting members, wherein each connecting member is pivotally coupled to said connected end of one of said lifting straps, and each connecting member is slidingly coupled to one of said shoulder straps.

4. The harness system of claim 1 wherein said back support member is adapted to support the lower back and lumbar area of the infant.

5. The harness system of claim 4 wherein said back support member includes a front segment disposed across said front section of said unitary body and a rear segment disposed across said rear section of said unitary body, wherein said front segment has a width W1 and said rear segment has a width W2, wherein W2 is greater than W1.

6. The harness system of claim 1 wherein the length of each shoulder strap between said front end and said rear end is adjustable.

7. The harness system of claim 1 wherein the length of said back support member encircling said unitary body is adjustable.

8. The harness system of claim 1 wherein said unitary body comprises padding adapted to cushion the application of forces to the infant.

9. The harness system of claim 1 wherein said unitary body comprises a nylon mesh.

10. A harness system for an infant comprising: a unitary body including a front section, a rear section, and an intermediate section extending therebetween, wherein said intermediate section is adapted to support substantially all the weight of the infant; at least two shoulder straps, wherein each shoulder strap includes a front end coupled to said front section of said unitary body and a rear end coupled to said rear section of said unitary body; a connecting member slidingly coupled to each shoulder strap; and at least two lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap includes a free end and a connected end pivotally connected to one of said connecting members.

11. The harness system of claim 10 further comprising a back support member encircling said unitary body and positioned adjacent the waist of the infant.

12. The harness system of claim 11 wherein the length of said back support member encircling said unitary body is adjustable.

13. The harness system of claim 11 wherein said back support member includes a front segment disposed across said front section of said unitary body and a rear segment disposed across said rear section of said unitary body, wherein said front segment has a width W1 and said rear segment having a width W2, wherein W2 is greater than W1.

14. The harness system of claim 10 wherein said free end of each lifting strap includes a handle.

15. The harness system of claim 10 wherein the length of each shoulder strap between said front end and said rear end is adjustable.

16. The harness system of claim 10 wherein said unitary body comprises padding adapted to cushion the application of forces to the infant.

17. A harness system to hold an infant upright comprising: a unitary body including a front section to engage at least a portion of the anterior of the infant, a rear section to engage at least a portion of the posterior of the infant, and an intermediate section extending between said front section and said rear section to engage the groin area of the infant; a pair of shoulder straps, wherein each shoulder strap includes a front end fixed to said front section of said unitary body and a rear end fixed to said rear section of said unitary body; a pair of lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap includes a connected end and a free end; means for pivotally and slidingly coupling each lifting strap to one of the shoulder straps; and a back support member encircling said unitary body and positioned adjacent the waist of the infant.

18. The harness system of claim 17 wherein said back support member includes a front segment disposed across said front section of said unitary body and a rear segment disposed across said rear section of said unitary body, wherein said front segment has a width W1 and said rear segment having a width W2, wherein W2 is greater than W1.

19. The harness system of claim 17 wherein the length of each shoulder strap between said front end and said rear end is adjustable.

20. The harness system of claim 10 wherein said unitary body comprises padding adapted to cushion the application of forces to the infant.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/807,981 filed Jul. 21, 2006, and entitled “Harness System for an Infant or Young Child,” which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates generally to a harness system to hold and support a child. More particularly, the invention relates to a harness system to assist in training a child to walk. Still more particularly, the present invention relates to an adjustable harness system to aid in training a child to walk while improving the child's balance.

2. Background of the Invention

Young infants spend the first few months of their lives in the prone position or on their backs. However, as their strength grows, they soon begin to hold their heads up and start crawling. Eventually, young infants start trying to stand upright and walk on their own two legs.

The transition to upright walking is an exciting time for parents and the child, but can also be challenging and dangerous. Usually, young children just starting to stand upright have not fully developed their motor skills or balance. Thus, some children learning to stand and walk may stumble, fall, and possibly injure themselves.

Traditionally, many parents simply hold the hand of the infant as the infant attempts to stand upright and take his/her first steps. This process often requires the relatively taller parent to bend down to reach and hold the child's hand. Although this approach is interactive between the parent and infant, it can be uncomfortable for the adult, and it may place stresses on the undeveloped joints and sockets (e.g., elbow joint, shoulder joint) of the infant as the infant's arm is extended and often pulled upward.

As an alternative to simply holding the hand of the infant and walking along with the infant, some adults employ a conventional rolling walker device that includes a seat or harness. Typically, the infant or young child is placed within the seat or harness and then uses his/her own legs to push the rolling device around. However, these conventional rolling walker devices tend to be less interactive between adult and child, and may even place the infant in an unsafe environment if not closely monitored. For instance, if not closely supervised, the infant could potentially push the device over the edge of stairs.

Other conventional infant training devices employ a harness that is strapped to the infant and includes one or more holding tethers or straps that extend from the harness and are held by an adult. By holding and controlling the straps, the adult can hold the child upright within the harness as the child learns to walk. If the infant loses its balance or begins to stumble, the holding tethers or straps can be manipulated by the adult to control the position of the infant and to restrict the infant from falling.

Some conventional harnesses directly apply forces to the infant via thin straps, having a relatively small surface area. The concentration of forces over such a small surface area may be uncomfortable to the child, rub and irritate the child's skin, and/or potentially injure the child. In addition, the plurality of interconnected straps may present a choking hazard to the infant if the straps inadvertently get wrapped around the infant's neck. Further, some of these devices provide lifting forces to the underarms of the infant which can also create discomfort for the infant, especially in some conventional devices that rely on underarm straps to support the entire weight of the child. In addition, the lifting straps of some conventional harnesses may be fixed, rotationally and/or translationally, relative to the harness worn by the infant. Such devices may result in the application of unstable rotational torques to the infant when the infant leans forward of backwards. Still further, some conventional training harnesses fail to provide adequate lumbar or lower back support. As a result, the harness may be uncomfortable and/or the infant may tend to slump in the harness.

Accordingly, there remains a need in the art for a harness system to train a child to walk that is interactive and offers the potential for improved comfort, enhanced back support, and that permits controlled leaning of the child forwards and backwards while eliminating other detrimental effects of conventional training harnesses. In addition, such a new and improved harness system would be well received if it was relatively inexpensive and simple to manufacture.

SUMMARY

These and other needs in the art are addressed in one embodiment by a harness system for an infant. In an embodiment, the harness system comprises a unitary body including a front section to engage at least a portion of the anterior of the infant, a rear section to engage at least a portion of the posterior of the infant, and an intermediate section extending between the front section and the rear section to engage the groin area of the infant. In addition, the harness system comprises a pair of shoulder straps, each having a front end coupled to the front section and a rear end coupled to the rear section. Further, the harness system comprises a pair of lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap is coupled to one of the shoulder straps. Still further, the harness system comprises a back support member encircling the unitary body and positioned adjacent the waist of the infant.

Theses and other needs in the art are addressed in another embodiment by a harness system for an infant. In an embodiment, the harness system comprises a unitary body including a front section, a rear section, and an intermediate section extending therebetween, wherein the intermediate section is adapted to support substantially all the weight of the infant. In addition, the harness system comprises at least two shoulder straps, wherein each shoulder strap includes a front end coupled to the front section of the unitary body and a rear end coupled to the rear section of the unitary body. Further, the harness system comprises a connecting member slidingly coupled to each shoulder strap. Still further, the harness system comprises at least two lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap includes a free end and a connected end pivotally connected to one of the connecting members.

Theses and other needs in the art are addressed in another embodiment by a harness system to hold an infant upright. In an embodiment, the harness system comprises a unitary body including a front section to engage at least a portion of the anterior of the infant, a rear section to engage at least a portion of the posterior of the infant, and an intermediate section extending between the front section and the rear section to engage the groin area of the infant. In addition, the harness system comprises a pair of shoulder straps, wherein each shoulder strap includes a front end fixed to the front section of the unitary body and a rear end fixed to the rear section of the unitary body. Further, the harness system comprises a pair of lifting straps, wherein each lifting strap includes a connected end and a free end. Still further, the harness system comprises means for pivotally and slidingly coupling each lifting strap to one of the shoulder straps; and

Thus, embodiments described herein comprise a combination of features and advantages intended to address various shortcomings associated with certain prior devices. The various characteristics described above, as well as other features, will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, and by referring to the accompanying drawings. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the conception and the specific embodiments disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the embodiments described herein. It should also be realized by those skilled in the art that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an infant harness system;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an infant in the infant harness system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a back view of the infant harness system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side view of an infant being trained by an adult in the infant harness system of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 5A-5C are selected side views of an infant in the infant harness system of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 6 is another embodiment of a training harness system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following discussion is directed to various embodiments of the invention. Although one or more of these embodiments may be preferred, the embodiments disclosed should not be interpreted, or otherwise used, as limiting the scope of the disclosure, including the claims. In addition, one skilled in the art will understand that the following description has broad application, and the discussion of any embodiment is meant only to be exemplary of that embodiment, and not intended to intimate that the scope of the disclosure, including the claims, is limited to that embodiment.

Certain terms are used throughout the following description and claims to refer to particular features or components. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, different persons may refer to the same feature or component by different names. This document does not intend to distinguish between components or features that differ in name but not function. The drawing figures are not necessarily to scale. Certain features and components herein may be shown exaggerated in scale or in somewhat schematic form and some details of conventional elements may not be shown in interest of clarity and conciseness.

In the following discussion and in the claims, the terms “including” and “comprising” are used in an open-ended fashion, and thus should be interpreted to mean “including, but not limited to . . . . ” Also, the term “couple” or “couples” is intended to mean either an indirect or direct connection. Thus, if a first device couples to a second device, that connection may be through a direct connection, or through an indirect connection via other devices and connections.

For purposes of this discussion, orthogonal x-, y-, and z-axes are shown in FIGS. 1 and 3 to aid in understanding the descriptions that follow. In general, the x-axis defines lateral positions, the y-axis defines upper and lower positions, and the z-axis defines front/anterior and rear/posterior positions. The set of coordinate axes (x-, y-, and z-axes) are consistently maintained throughout although different views (e.g., front view, side view, etc.) may be presented.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, an infant harness system 100 is shown. Harness system 100 may be employed to hold an infant 90 upright, to train infant 90 to walk, and/or to aid in developing the balance and motor skills of infant 90. Harness system 100 includes a body 20, shoulder straps 30, holding straps 40, and a back support member 60. As will be described in more detail below, shoulder straps 30 are coupled to body 20, each lifting strap 40 slidingly engages a shoulder strap 40, and back support member 60 generally encircles body 20.

Body 20 includes a front section 22, a rear section 26 and an intermediate section 24 extending therebetween. Front section 22, rear section 26, and intermediate section 24 form a single, integral structure. Thus, body 20 may be described herein as “single piece” or “unitary.” When viewed from the side (e.g., FIG. 4), body 20 is generally U-shaped, with front section 22 and rear section 26 generally parallel and extending upward in the direction of the z-axis from intermediate section 24. Thus, front section 22 may be described as having an upper portion 22a and a lower portion 22b integral with intermediate section 24. Likewise, rear section 26 may be described as having an upper portion 26a and a lower portion 26b integral with intermediate section 24. As best seen in FIG. 2, front section 22 engages the front or anterior of the torso of infant 90, generally across the chest and abdomen areas; rear section 26 engages the rear or posterior of the torso of infant 90, generally along the upper and lower back; and intermediate section 24 extends between front section 22 and rear section 26, thereby engaging the crotch or groin area of infant 90.

Front section 22 is generally defined by an upper edge 23a, lateral or side edges 23b, and a smoothly curved and contoured edge 23c along the transition from front section 22 to intermediate section 24. Rear section 26 includes an upper edge 27a, lateral or side edges 27b, and a smoothly curved and contoured edge 27c that represents the transition from rear section 26 to intermediate section 24. Although, side edges 23b are shown as substantially parallel, and side edges 27b are shown as substantially parallel, in some embodiments, side edges 23b, 27b may not be parallel. Contoured edges 23c and 27c result in the tapering of body 20 towards intermediate section 24. As a result, intermediate section 24 has a decreased width, measured parallel to the x-axis, relative to front section 22 and rear section 26.

Referring still to FIGS. 1 and 2, together, contoured edges 22c and 26c form leg apertures 70. In addition, the void or space between front section 22 and rear section 26 results in lateral openings 28 and superior or upper opening 29 generally opposite intermediate section 24. As best seen in FIG. 2, infant 90 is generally positioned in the space between front section 22 and rear section 26, with a leg on either side of intermediate section 24. Consequently, leg apertures 70, lateral openings 28, and superior opening 29 accommodate the infant's legs, arms, neck and head, respectively, as best seen in FIG. 3.

Body 20 preferably comprises relatively flexible, wear resistant, and comfortable material(s) including without limitation nylon mesh or the like. Such exemplary materials permit body 20 to conform to the shape and contours of the infant (e.g., infant 90) wearing harness system 100. Moreover, such exemplary materials will tend not to cut, scratch, or otherwise harm the skin of infant 90 when the infant moves relative to body 20. To further enhance the comfort of harness system 100, the outer edges (e.g., contoured edges 23c, 27c) of body 20 are preferably relatively smooth and/or radiused. Still further, all or at least portions of front section 22, intermediate section 24, and rear section 26 of body 20 preferably include padding to cushion forces acting between the infant and body 20.

Referring specifically to FIG. 2, as previously described, leg apertures 70, lateral openings 28, and superior opening 29 provide sufficient space for and comfortably accommodate the legs, arms, head and neck of infant 90. Thus, even when infant 90 is secured within harness system 90, infant 90 is relatively free to move his/her arms, legs, neck, head. Further, since body 20 preferably comprises a flexible material, infant 90 is permitted to bend forward, backwards, to the sides, or combinations thereof. The flexible, contoured body 20 will generally move with infant 90 and maintain contact with infant 90.

Embodiments of harness system 100 described herein more fully enclose the infant within a flexible padded integral body 20 as best seen in FIG. 2. This design tends to spread the forces applied to the infant (e.g., lifting forces) over the relatively large, padded surface area of front section 22, intermediate section 24, and rear section 26. Further, embodiments of harness system 100 described herein do not directly apply lifting forces or other forces to the sensitive under arms of the infant. Rather, forces are generally applied through flexible padded body 20, with the infant's weight substantially supported at the groin area by intermediate section 24, thereby offering the potential for a safer, more comfortable infant harness through reduced force concentration areas.

Referring to FIGS. 1-3, shoulder straps 30 are coupled to body 20. In particular, each shoulder strap 30 includes a front end 30a fixed to upper portion 22a of front section 22 (FIG. 1) and a rear end 30b fixed to upper portion 26a of rear section 26 (FIG. 3). In the embodiments illustrated herein, shoulder straps 30 are fixed to front section 22 and rear section 26 by stitching. However, in general, one or more shoulder straps 30 may be fixed or removably coupled to body 20 by any suitable means including without limitation stitching, adhesive, snaps, buttons, or combinations thereof.

It should be appreciated that shoulder straps 30 are laterally spaced apart relative to each other, thereby permitting the head of infant 90 to pass therebetween. In this configuration, each shoulder strap 30 passes over a shoulder of infant 90 without contacting infant 90.

Each shoulder strap 30 comprises two distinct straps that are releasably coupled together by a coupling 35. By disconnecting or releasing coupling 35, shoulder strap 30 may be divided into two segments, one segment attached to front section 22 and the other segment attached to rear section 26. Such a feature may increase the ease by which an infant is secured within harness system 100. For instance, by disconnecting coupling 35, infant 90 can placed within body 20 through upper opening 29 without restriction by shoulder straps 30 since shoulder straps 30 no longer extend completely from front section 22 to rear section 26. In addition, inclusion of coupling 35 enables adjustment of the overall length of each shoulder strap 30 as measured between front end 30a and rear end 30b. By adjusting the length of each shoulder strap 30, one harness system 100 may be configured to accommodate different age and sized infants. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, coupling 35 is a quick release clip or connection of the type commonly used with backpacks, luggage, etc. However, in general, coupling 35 may comprise any suitable releasable device that permits adjustment of the length of shoulder strap 30.

Shoulder straps 30 may comprise any suitable material, and preferably comprise a relatively flexible, wear resistant, comfortable material such as ballistic nylon or the like.

Referring still to FIGS. 1-3, harness system 100 also includes two lifting straps 40, one coupled to each shoulder strap 30 with a connecting member 50. Infant 90 is suspended and generally held upright within body 20 by lifting straps 40 as best shown in FIG. 4. To reduce the need for adult 95 (FIG. 4) to bend over, and hence to reduce discomfort and/or back stress on adult 95, holding straps 40 are preferably sufficiently long that adult 95 can hold them while standing upright, while also allowing infant 90 to touch the ground. In some embodiments, the length of each holding strap 40 is adjustable so that harness system 100 can be used comfortably by a variety of differently sized adults. Further, by holding handles 42 to manipulate lifting straps 40, an adult 95 can control and regulate the movement of infant 90. Thus, handle 42 of each lifting strap 40 is preferably sized to be securely held by adult 95. Although handle 42 is shown herein as being formed from lifting strap 40 itself (e.g., lifting strap 40 is looped back and attached to itself to form handle 42), in other embodiments, other devices may be coupled to lifting strap 40 to form a handle structure.

Each lifting strap 40 has a connected end 40a pivotally coupled to a connecting member 50, and a free end 40a that includes a handle 42. Thus, connecting member 50 is free to pivot about connected end 40a, but is restricted from moving translationally relative to connected end 40a of lifting strap 40.

In addition, each connecting member 50 is slidingly and pivotally coupled to a shoulder strap 30. Thus, each connecting member 50 may move translationally along the shoulder strap 30 to which it is coupled, and pivot relative to the shoulder strap 30 to which it is coupled. Thus, the coupling or connection between shoulder straps 30 and lifting straps 40 via connecting member may be described as “floating,” and lifting straps 40 may be described as “floating straps.” Although connecting member 50 is shown as a relatively simple bracket or loop-type connector, in general, connecting member 50 may comprise any suitable device that permits translational movement and pivoting between shoulder straps 30 and lifting straps 40.

Referring briefly to FIGS. 5A-5C, the sliding and pivoting connection between each connecting member 50 and each shoulder strap 30 enables a relatively stable harness system 100, creates a more realistic walking experience for infant 90, and potentially improves the development of balance and upright walking skills of infant 90 as compared to some conventional infant training harnesses. For instance, when infant 90 stands substantially in an upright, neutral position, connecting member 50 is generally positioned over the shoulders of infant 90 as best seen in FIG. 5B. Then, as infant 90 leans back, connecting member 50 slides along shoulder strap 30 towards the anterior or front side of infant 90 as best seen in FIG. 5A. The more connecting member 50 moves translationally toward the anterior of infant 90, the more infant 90 may lean backwards. Likewise, as infant 90 leans forward, connecting member 50 slides along shoulder strap 30 towards the posterior or back side of infant 90 as best seen in FIG. 5C. The more connecting member 50 moves translationally toward the posterior of infant 90, the more infant 90 may lean forward. Thus, harness system 100 permits infant 90 to lean moderately forward or backward. Lifting or floating straps 40 interactively move along shoulder straps 30 as infant 90 leans slightly forward or back as previously described. By permitting infant 90 to moderately lean forward and backward, harness system 100 may be used as a tool to safely develop the balance of infant 90. It should be appreciated that the adult holding lifting straps 40 by handles 42 is not shown in FIGS. 5A-5C for purposes of clarity and conciseness.

Although harness system 100 permits infant 90 to moderately lean, the pivotal and slidable connection (i.e., floating connection) between holding straps 40 and shoulder straps 30 reduces the potential for excessive tilting of infant 90 which may result in a complete loss of balance, falling, and/or injury to infant 90. Specifically, as infant 90 leans, connecting member 50 will tend to slide over the center of gravity of infant 90, while at the same time, the pivoting action of lifting straps 40 relative to connecting members 50 will tend to maintain lifting straps 40 in a substantially vertical orientation. As a result, the forces applied by lifting straps 40 will be predominantly vertical forces passing substantially through the center of gravity of infant 90, thereby reducing the application of rotational torques to infant 90. Lifting straps fixed to a specific point on the harness structure result in the application of forces that do not pass through the center of gravity of the infant, thereby causing torques that tend to tilt or rotate the infant. Such torques may result in an unrealistic walking experience for the child, and further may result in less stability for the infant and harness. However, in the embodiments of harness system 100 described herein, the forces applied to infant 90 via connecting members 50 and lifting straps 40 substantially pass through the center of gravity of infant 90, even when infant 90 leans slightly forward or backward. Consequently, rotational torques acting on infant 90 are reduced, resulting in a relatively stable, realistic walking experience, and allows infant 90 to experience balancing with his/her own motor skills by foot and toe movements as well as natural arm movement.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 3, harness system 100 also includes a back support member 60 that encircles body 20 and is oriented generally parallel to the x-z plane. When the infant (e.g., infant 90) is placed within body 20, back support member 60 serves to hold body 20 on the infant and maintain contact between the infant and sections 22, 26 as best seen in FIGS. 2 and 4. Hence, in some embodiments, back support member 60 may also be described as a waist strap or belt. Back support member 60 may be described as comprising a first end 60a, a second end 60b, a front segment 61a extending across and engaging front section 22 of body 20, and a rear segment 61b extending across and engaging rear section 26. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, rear segment 61b of back support member 60 is fixed to rear section 26 by stitches. However, in other embodiments, rear segment 61b may be completely removable from body 20.

Back support member 60 further includes a releasable coupling 65 that permits the releasable attachment of ends 60a, 60b of back support member 60. This feature may increase the ease by which a child is secured within body 20 of harness system 100. In addition, inclusion of coupling 65 enables adjustment of the overall length of back support member 60, thereby enabling harness system 100 to be adjusted to comfortably accommodate a variety of different age and sizes of infants. Similar to couplings 35 previously described, coupling 65 is shown as a quick release clip or connection. However, in different embodiments, coupling 65 may comprises any suitable releasable device that permits adjustment of the overall length of back support member 60.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, back support member 60 is positioned generally around the waist of infant 90. Rear segment 61b is disposed across the lower back and lumbar region of infant 90. In this configuration, when back support member 60 is firmly secured around the waist of infant 90, it provides lower back and lumbar support to infant 90. Lack of lower back support may increase the tendency for the infant to slump, and possibly develop lower back discomfort. By including back support member 60, and positioning back support member 60 around the waist of infant 90, embodiments described herein may reduce slumping and reduce lower back discomfort by providing sufficient lower back and lumbar support to infant 90.

In addition, it should be appreciated that rear segment 61 of back support member 60 (i.e., the portion of back support member 60 extending across the lower back and lumbar area of the infant) is the widest part of back support member 60, as measured substantially parallel to axis y. In particular, front segment has a width W1 and rear segment 61b has a width W2 that is greater than W1. This configuration allows back support member 60, rear segment 61b in particular, to provide increased support in the lower back region without unduly restricting infant 90 from bending forward at the waist. Although front segment 61a and rear segment 61b of back support member 60 are shown as having substantially uniform widths along their respective lengths, in different embodiments, front segment 61a and/or rear segment 61b may have non-uniform widths, or the same width. In addition, it should be appreciated that back support member 60 is provided around the outside of body 20, thereby permitting body 20 to disperse and cushion the forces between back support member 60 and infant 90. As with lifting straps 40 and shoulder straps 30, back support member 60 may comprise any suitable material(s), and preferably comprises a flexible, wear resistant material such as ballistic nylon or the like.

Referring now to FIG. 6, another embodiment of an infant harness system 200 is illustrated. Harness system 200 illustrated in FIG. 6 is substantially the same as harness system 100 illustrated in FIG. 1, with the exception that releasable coupling 65 on back support member 60 has been replaced by a releasable Velcro® coupling 67. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6, coupling 67 is disposed on each lateral side of body 20 across each lateral opening 28. However, in other embodiments, one or more couplings 67 may be employed, and further the location of couplings 67 may vary.

In the manner described, embodiments of harness system 100, 200 described herein provide a harness that may be used to hold an infant upright, as an interactive tool to train an infant, and as a device to develop an infant's balance. In addition, embodiments of harness system 100, 200 provide improved comfort, enhanced lower back and lumbar support, an increased range of motion, and a relatively realistic walking experience for the infant. Further, by providing a harness with a minimized number of straps, embodiments described herein may reduce the potential for inadvertent choking of the infant. Moreover, the use of flexible materials and adjustable length straps (e.g., holding straps 40, shoulder straps 30, back support member 60, etc.) offers the potential for a “one size fits all” infant training harness (e.g., harness system 100). Still further, some of the embodiments described herein employ relatively inexpensive, readily available materials into a simple design, thereby offering the potential for a cheaper and easier to manufacture infant harness system.

While preferred embodiments have been shown and described, modifications thereof can be made by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope or teachings herein. The embodiments described herein are exemplary only and are not limiting. Many variations and modifications of the system and apparatus are possible and are within the scope of the invention. For example, the relative dimensions of various parts, the materials from which the various parts are made, and other parameters can be varied. Accordingly, the scope of protection is not limited to the embodiments described herein, but is only limited by the claims that follow, the scope of which shall include all equivalents of the subject matter of the claims.