Title:
Child carriers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A child carrier comprises a harness and a pouch. The harness is designed to be worn by a person wishing to carry a child and the pouch is designed to receive a child that the person wishes to carry. The harness includes a hip belt, a frame mounted on the hip belt and a load-transmitting fastener formation carried on or forming part of the frame. The arrangement is such that, in use, the majority of the weight of the pouch and its contents are transferred via the frame to the hip belt and thus to the pelvic region of the person wearing the harness.



Inventors:
Trainer, Andrew Anthony (Bedford, GB)
Application Number:
12/157291
Publication Date:
12/10/2009
Filing Date:
06/06/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D13/02
View Patent Images:
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20090250470Tool BucketOctober, 2009Merrick et al.



Primary Examiner:
COGILL, JOHN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Melvin I. Stoltz, Esq. (Milford, CT, US)
Claims:
1. A child carrier comprising a harness and a pouch, the harness being designed to be worn by a person wishing to carry a child and the pouch being designed to receive a child that the person wishes to carry, the harness including a hip belt, a frame mounted on the hip belt and a load-transmitting fastener formation carried on or forming part of the frame, and the pouch having a load-transmitting fastener formation that is engageable with the load-transmitting fastener formation on the harness whereby, in use, the two load-transmitting fastener formations can be interengaged such that the majority of the weight of the pouch and its contents are transferred via the frame to the hip belt and thus to the hips of the person wearing the harness.

2. A child carrier as claimed in claim 1, in which the pouch has front and back surfaces on each of which there is a load-transmitting fastener formation engageable with the load-transmitting fastener formation on the harness.

3. A child carrier as claimed in claim 1, in which the load-transmitting fastener formation on the harness comprises a socket

4. A child carrier as claimed in claim 1, in which the frame has a configuration corresponding substantially to that of a downwardly facing C.

5. A child carrier as claimed in claim 1, in which there are fixings on the pouch engageable with fixings on the harness to prevent the pouch and its contents moving sideways (relative to the harness) and away from the harness/wearer.

6. A child carrier comprising a first part and a second part, the first part being in the form of a harness designed to be worn by a person carrying a child and the second part being designed to receive a child that the person wishes to carry, the harness including shoulder straps, a hip belt, a frame mounted on the hip belt and a load-transmitting fastener formation arranged to transmit any load that it receives to the frame, and the second part of the child carrier including a load-transmitting fastener formation that is engageable with the load-transmitting fastener formation on the harness whereby, in use, the two load-transmitting fastener formations can be inter-engaged such that the majority of the weight of the second part of the child carrier and its contents are transferred via the frame to the hip belt and thus to the pelvic region of the person wearing the harness.

7. A child carrier as claimed in claim 6, in which the load-transmitting fastener formation on the harness comprises a socket having an upwardly facing open mouth.

8. A child carrier as claimed in claim 6, in which the hip belt is formed with a series of pockets and in which the frame of the harness has downwardly extending end portions selectively engageable in the pockets of the hip belt.

9. A child carrier as claimed in claim 6, in which fixings are mounted on the shoulder straps of the harness and in which complementary fixings are provided on the second part of the child carrier whereby the complementary fixings on the second part of the child carrier can be engaged with the fixings on the shoulder straps to prevent the pouch and its contents moving sideways (relative to the harness) and away from the harness/wearer.

10. A child carrier as claimed in claim 6, in which the second part comprises a pouch having front and back surfaces on each of which there is a load-transmitting formation engageable with the load-transmitting formation on the harness.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to child carriers used on the front of a parent/carer.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

Children from newly-born to 3-4 years of age may be transported in carriers strapped to either the front or the back of the torso. “Front carriers”, as they are called, place the child on the chest of the person carrying them and “back carriers” place the child on the back of the person carrying them.

Generally, front carriers are used until the child is around 12 months old, after which (as the child's weight increases) a back carrier typically becomes the more comfortable choice.

Choosing ways of transporting a young child is a major issue for parents and while there are numerous transporters available in the market, they can be classified generally as follows:

    • 1. “Car seats” fit into a vehicle and are generally restrained by the vehicle's fitted seat belts.
    • 2. “Strollers” (or “Pushchairs” and “Buggys” as they are also known) are wheeled seats into which a child can be strapped and then pushed by the parent/carer.
    • 3. “Front carriers” in which the child (generally between 1-12 months old) is strapped to the chest of the parent/carer.
    • 4. “Back carriers” in which the child (generally between 1-3 years old) is seated within a frame (that is similar in principle to a rucksack frame), which is then strapped to the back of the parent/carer.
    • 5. “Prams” are wheeled cots into which the child is placed and then pushed by the parent/carer.

While popular in the past, prams have reduced significantly in popularity as society has become more vehicle-dependent because they are bulky and most designs do not collapse to fit the small storage spaces available in the car trunk (or “boot”) or on public transport (buses, trains, planes, taxis etc).

Within each of the other four separate classes of child transporter which are popular (namely, car seats, strollers, front and back carriers) there are many different options from which a parent/carer can choose. However, modern lifestyles are such that a single class of transporter is generally unable to satisfy all the requirements for child transportation which arise under all circumstances. As a consequence, parents/carers find it necessary to purchase transporters from two or more different classes, and sometimes three or even all four if they have to cope with more then one child at a time, or children of different ages.

Many individual day-to-day activities for a parent/carer involve transporting a child in several different ways. Shopping, for example, may involve driving to a shopping centre with the child in a car seat and then transferring them to either a front or back carrier, or to a stroller. Such transfers are reversed during the return journey. While in the shopping centre the parent/carer might wish to transfer the child from a stroller to their lap while they stop for a rest, or from a front or back carrier to their lap, or from a front carrier to a changing table for a diaper (or “nappy”) change.

Many parents/carers will have a car seat and a stroller. Many others will have these plus either a front carrier or back carrier, or even both these. The ease with which it is possible to transfer a child from one class of transporter to another (“inter-modal transfer”) can become a real issue for a parent/carer. For example, the ease with which a child (either asleep or awake) can be transferred from a car seat to a stroller, or from a car seat to a front carrier, can become a factor in determining whether they even buy a front carrier at all.

Manufacturers of front carriers have not so far addressed this issue of inter-modal transfer satisfactorily, and it is an object of the present invention to make such transfer much simpler.

Manufacturers of the five common classes of child transporter have also tended to focus on the issues of transporting a child between the home and another destination, ignoring the fact that it is also necessary to carry the child within the home, often while simultaneously undertaking other tasks (washing, cooking, cleaning, attending to the needs of another child etc). Frequently, carriage within the home can involve extended periods of time, while the child is not asleep and while it cannot simply be left safely to sleep in a cot. The Invention also addresses this need.

A well-designed front carrier offers a parent/carer distinct advantages by comparison with a stroller because the child is able to maintain eye-contact with the wearer and this assists bonding. The child is with the parent/carer all of the time and is never left unattended, yet the parent/carer is able to keep both hands free for other tasks. Most importantly, the child is also kept up high and away from risk.

A front carrier is a better and more suitable form of transporter to use than a stroller because:

    • the child is held up high, away from the danger of swinging bags on crowded pedestrian sidewalks and streets, away from the danger of misplaced feet on an escalator, and safe from the unwanted attention of dogs and other children;
    • using a front carrier keeps the wearer's hands free for other tasks;
    • it eliminates the need to collapse and fold up a stroller when getting onto and off public transport, and the need to simultaneously carry the child, the stroller and the shopping on to such transport, while potentially also holding the hand of another child;
    • it eliminates the need for storage space to be provided for a stroller either when parked or when collapsed;
    • the parent/carer is able to monitor the child's behaviour easily and more closely at all times.

Despite these advantages which a front carrier is able to offer over the use of a stroller, it is unfortunate that the various difficulties experienced by parents/carers with the use of the current designs of front carriers (which are described below) have resulted in a situation where parents/carers are deterred from using front carriers. Parents/carers are consequently greatly inconvenienced and children are placed at greater risk.

Current designs of front child carriers all follow the same general format. A reinforced pocket is used to carry the child and to this pocket are attached a number of straps. Typically, two straps are passed over the shoulders while another is passed around the waist. The ends of the straps are clipped together, the child is inserted into the pocket and the straps are adjusted to try and bring the child to a comfortable position on the chest, taking into account of the size of the wearer. Any differences between existing front carrier products are limited to the branding, quality, texture and colour of materials and fastenings used.

The child can be placed in the pocket so that it faces the wearer (should the child need to sleep or is unable to support its own head), or it can be placed in the pocket facing away from the wearer (should the child desire the environmental stimulation and is sufficiently developed to be able to safely support its own head). To rotate the child from one position to the other requires the wearer to remove the child from the pocket, turn them around and then re-insert them into the pocket; a process which is difficult, time-consuming and which some front carrier manufacturers recommend the wearer be seated for.

FIG. 1 illustrates a typical current design of front carrier.

The pocket 1 into which the child is inserted generally has three sets of straps attached to it. The shoulder straps 2 pass one over each shoulder, becoming strap 4 which emerges under the arm and under the breast. Typically, there is adjustment provided to strap 4 in order to shorten or lengthen the strap, to position the pocket at the correct height (it is generally recommended that, with the child positioned correctly, the wearer should be able to kiss the top of the child's head). Straps 2 are generally fixed to the top of the pocket, and straps 4 clipped/fastened to the side of the pocket.

Strap 3 passes around the waist and is generally clipped/fastened to the side of the pocket below straps 4. It can be adjusted to suit the wearer's waist size and is intended to sit around the waist.

Once the carrier has been attached to the wearer, the child is inserted into the pocket. This entails fastening and adjusting additional straps around the child, to suit the child's size.

With the carrier in its correct position, the weight of the child is taken mostly on straps 2. The function of strap 3 is generally to prevent movement of the child/pocket both sideways and away from the wearer during use.

One manufacturer has developed a two-part system, where the harness and the pouch are separate items. A wearer can don the same form of harness shown in FIG. 1 and then fix the child in its pouch to the harness in such a way that the child faces towards the wearer. This harness continues to transfer the majority of the child's weight through straps 2 to the shoulders, and rotation of the child (to face outwards) also continues to be an issue.

The limitations of this generic form of front carrier design are as follows:

    • 1. The child's weight is transferred mainly or completely to the shoulders, leading to the transfer of load to the small muscle groups in the shoulders and subsequently also to the lower back—both are uncomfortable and unacceptable over continuous periods.
    • 2. The side straps (those which circumnavigate the torso) cause discomfort to male and female wearers alike.
    • 3. The individual straps and buckles are easily confused and twisted—a problem difficult to solve alone.
    • 4. Adjusting the straps to change the position of the child (relative to the wearer), and to suit the size of the wearer is difficult.
    • 5. Putting on and adjusting the carrier is a process that takes several minutes and is not one that can be readily undertaken outside (for example, in the rain) or when removing the child from a car seat, especially bearing in mind that the child has to be subsequently inserted into the pocket after the carrier is in position; a process that some manufacturers recommend is done whilst the wearer is seated (but which is impracticable in the driver's seat).
    • 6. It is not a simple process to turn the child round within the pocket; the child must be extracted, rotated and re-inserted into the pocket (again, taking into account the need for the parent/carer to be seated).
    • 7. With the child correctly positioned within the carrier, its feet hang between the thighs when the wearer sits down, leading to an inconvenient and undignified ‘knees-apart’ posture (unsuitable for confined spaces and some clothing types).
    • 8. If the wearer leans forward when seated, perhaps to pick up something dropped onto the floor, the child is at risk of being squashed and/or suffocated.
    • 9. It is widely felt that this typical design (and its lack of suitable adjustment) results in the child's relative position (to the wearer's face) being too low, and as such hinders bonding and communication between adult and child.

Due to the difficulty of donning this generic design of carrier and inserting the child into the pocket, inter-modal transfer from a car seat to a front carrier is more complicated than many wearers are prepared to tolerate. Consequently, the majority of inter-modal transfers are from a car seat to a stroller, which is quicker and easier. However, this then leaves the parent/carer with both hands occupied (needed to push and steer the stroller), and potentially unable to simultaneously hold the hand of another toddler and also steer a separate shopping cart (or “trolley”). The child is then placed at risk in crowded shopping aisles or walkways, and the parent/carer is unable to use escalators without putting the child at further risk.

The child carrier of the present invention addresses all the shortcomings of current front carrier designs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the present invention there is provided a front child carrier which has two separate parts:

    • the first part is a harness which the wearer can put on and adjust at any time prior to needing to transport the child;
    • the second part is a pouch which the child wears in much the same way as it would an external garment. This second part incorporates a large hook plus other fastenings on both the front and rear of the pouch, which enable the child to be attached securely to the harness, facing either towards or away from the wearer.

The harness preferably incorporates a simple frame having a cooperating formation designed to receive either the hook on the front of the pouch or the hook on the rear of the pouch. The frame transfers the weight of the child from the hook to a padded hip belt, and this transfers most of the child's weight directly to the pelvic region, leaving only a minor part of the child's weight to be taken by the shoulders.

The child carrier of the present invention overcomes all of the limitations of current front carriers in the following ways

    • 1. The child's weight is transferred largely to the hips/pelvis. This reduces considerably any load taken by the shoulders (and subsequently, the lower back). The Invention is more comfortable to wear and can be worn for longer periods of time, making it suitable for longer outings and extended use within the home.
    • 2. The harness requires just the hip belt ends to be clipped together, reducing to a minimum the overall number of straps that must be clipped together.
    • 3. The hip belt and shoulder straps can be adjusted easily and comfortably.
    • 4. The harness can be donned before beginning a journey and can be worn while driving. Alternatively, it can be donned quickly on arrival, whilst standing. The child can be fitted into the pouch before a journey begins and can travel in a car seat while wearing it. On arrival at a destination, the child can be removed from the car seat and clipped directly to the harness, making inter-modal transfer very simple and quick.
    • 5. The pouch/child is very easily and quickly fastened to/unfastened from the harness/wearer. This makes turning the child around to face either away from/towards the wearer completely hassle-free.
    • 6. If the wearer wishes to sit down, the child can be simply and quickly unhooked from the harness and be seated normally on the parent/carer's lap.
      In the act of sitting down, while wearing the harness, the distance between waist and shoulders shortens. This causes the top of the load-bearing frame to pivot outwards (away from the wearer) which automatically avoids the top of the frame pressing upwards into the underside of the bosom/into the rib cage.
    • 7. If the wearer wishes to bend down to the floor or squeeze through a narrow opening, the child/pouch can be very quickly and easily detached from the harness, and then simply re-attached after the manoeuvre has been completed.
    • 8. It is envisaged that a manufacturer of the Invention will develop a range of complementary accessories, which will include a fabric cover designed to fasten to a standard dining chair, which incorporates the same fixing arrangement as the harness itself, and to which the child in its pouch may be quickly attached after it has been detached from the harness. In this way such an accessory can transform any dining chair into a temporary and secure high-chair.

By transferring the majority of the load to the hips and thereby improving comfort by comparison with current generic front carrier designs, and by incorporating a simple hook arrangement on the harness which makes it possible for the child to be simply and quickly attached, detached and rotated, the Invention provides significant advantages.

Firstly, a child can be carried for longer periods more comfortably than with existing alternatives. This makes it possible for a front carrier to be used as a real alternative to a stroller, leaving the parent/carer's hands completely free for other tasks (for example, carrying shopping, holding the hand of another child, pushing a shopping cart) and with the child safely on the parent/carer's chest and up out of harm's way. A wearer can use public transport or a car without with the associated difficulties of folding, carrying, stowing and unfolding a stroller simultaneously.

Secondly, the improved comfort (through improved weight transfer) makes it viable for a parent/carer to carry the child for longer periods than they were previously able to (enabling, for example, the parent/carer to carry the child on longer outings or while the parent/carer is undertaking normal daily tasks around the home).

Thirdly, it makes inter-modal transfer much simpler. For example, a child can be transferred quickly from car seat to front carrier, from harness to high-chair, from harness to lap, or rotated to face away from/towards the parent/carer far easier than previously possible.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows the known form of child carrier referred to above,

FIG. 2 shows the pouch and the harness of the child carrier of the present invention, and

FIG. 3 is a rear view of the harness of FIG. 2.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The pouch 20 which contains the child is separate from the harness 21 which is worn by the parent/carer. Wide shoulder straps 22 are linked to a wide and padded hip belt 8 by a back support 23 that is shown in FIG. 3. The shoulder straps 22 can be adjusted at 24. The harness 21 and the pouch 20 incorporate a large flat hook 5b and a corresponding socket 5a which clip together. The socket 5a is part of the harness 21 and the hook 5b is affixed to the pouch 20.

The pouch 20 comprises front and back panels that define a compartment within which a child can be placed and there are openings through which the legs and the arms of the child can extend. The pouch 20 has a hook 5b on both the front and the back (to enable the child to face respectively towards or away from the wearer of the harness 21). When one of the hooks 5b is inserted into the socket 5a, it serves to transfer the weight of the pouch 20 and its contents, i.e. the child, to the harness 21.

The harness 21 and the pouch 20 also incorporate other fixings 6a and 6b. The lugs 6b on the pouch 20 fit into the quick-release latches 6a on the harness 21. The function of the fixings 6a and 6b is to prevent the upper portion of the pouch 20 deforming and becoming detached from the harness under the movement of the child and/or wearer. The quick-release latches 6a include rotatable formations that can be moved between locking positions (in which the lugs 6b cannot be separated from the quick-release latches 6a) and release positions (in which the lugs 6b can readily be separated from the quick-release latches 6a). The shoulder straps 22, on which the quick-release latches 6a are mounted extend downwardly below the quick-release latches 6a and are joined together to form a front strap portion 25 that is connected to a frame 7 adjacent the socket 5a.

The pouch 20 has lugs 6b on both the front and the back (to enable the child to face respectively towards or away from the wearer).

The socket 5a forms an integral part of the frame 7 and the arrangement is such that the majority of the weight of the child is transferred by the frame 7 to a hip belt 8 and through that directly to the pelvic area of the wearer. The socket 5a may alternatively be a separate component fixed to the centre of the top of the frame 7. The ends of the frame 7 are formed with longitudinally extending slits (as can be seen from FIG. 2) and the ends of the frame 7 fit securely into pockets 9 around the hip belt 8. As can be seen from FIG. 2, there is a series of pockets 9 extending around the hip belt 8 to permit adjustment of the hip belt 8 at 10 to suit different waist sizes.

The frame 7 has a horizontally extending main body portion, at the centre of which the socket 5a is located, and downwardly extending end portions such that the frame 7 as a whole has a configuration similar to a downwardly facing C. The socket 5a has an upwardly facing open mouth to receive the hook 5b, which comprises a substantially flat plate that is so shaped that it is a close fit in the socket 5a. When a pouch 20 containing a child is attached to the harness 21, the majority of the weight of the child is transferred via the hook 5b and the socket 5a to the frame 7 and then to the hip belt 8.

The configuration of the pouch 20 can be adjusted from time to time as the child grows. The adjustable strap at 11 accommodates the child's height while adjustment at 12 accommodates growth in the volume of the child's torso.

FIG. 3 illustrates the back of the harness. As can be seen, the shoulder straps 22 are linked to the hip belt 8 by a back support 23 which can contain an integral reinforcing support within the lower back area, to ensure the transferred downward force applied to hip belt 8 at pockets 9 is spread across the lower back, and therefore prevents hip belt 8 from ‘twisting’.

As shown in FIG. 2, the frame 7 is in the form of a rigid loop the ends of which fit into pockets 9 on the hip belt 8, with fixings 5a and 5b being a hook 5b on the pouch 20 and socket 5a on frame 7; and fixings 6a and 6b being lugs 6b on the pouch 20 that fit into quick-release latches 6a on the shoulder straps 22.

In another embodiment, it is possible to replace the rigid loop 7 with a triangular frame which incorporates the socket for reception of a hook but also replaces buckle 10, in which case the ends of the hip belt 8 may connect to this triangular frame, and be adjusted, at the hips. Different forms of lugs and latches 6a and 6b may be used. The principles of transferring the majority of the child's weight to the hips of the wearer of the harness, and the ability to easily and quickly rotate the pouch/child will remain and are of major importance.

In the inward-facing position, it is widely accepted that the style of pouch 20 illustrated in FIG. 2 is suitable for a child that is more than one month old. In the outward-facing position, this same pouch is suitable for a child sufficiently mature enough to be able to support his/her own head (commonly recognised as being between 3 and 6 months).

A pouch can be used which is in the form of a sling, to suit a newly-born child. The child can lay in the sling either horizontally or with its head slightly raised relative to its feet. The sling is attached to the harness 21 by a fastening corresponding to the hook 5b, and with the handles of the sling attached to the upper part of the harness 21 using the same kind of fixings as at 6b. This enables the harness 21 to be used continuously from the birth of a baby.

The harness 21 and the pouch 20 can be made from shower-proof, insulated padded materials, to suit winter use or from lighter weight breathable fabrics to suit summer use or use in a hot country. Either can be styled, coloured or patterned to suit current vogue, or male/female and smart/casual/sporty fashions.

The back of the harness 21 can be fitted with a carrying bag, which may be used to carry items such as creams, diapers, feeding bottle, spare clothing etc for the child. This bag may be a rucksack that clips to the existing harness. The centre portion of the lower-back harness panel can also be removed to aid cooling to suit designs for hotter climates.

The harness may be so designed that it is also the frame for a back carrier, simultaneously enabling one child to be carried on the back of the parent/carer and another on the front.

A complementary fabric panel incorporating fixings 5a and 6a may be designed to fasten onto a normal dining chair and used to hold a child in either a pouch or a sling temporarily, converting the dining chair into a temporary ‘high chair’.

A sun shade may be provided, which may either be integral to or attachable to pouch 20. This would serve to protect the child from the damaging effects of the sun.

A complementary collapsible umbrella may also be provided which includes a formation designed to fit into one of the pockets 9 of the hip belt 8 so as to shelter the child and wearer, while continuing to leave the wearer's hands free for other tasks.