Title:
Storage Device for Infant Feed
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides for pressure indication within the vacuum storage container, as well as a way to isolate mother's milk in a container from air. The present invention utilizes sub-atmospheric pressure to reduce, or at least slow down, the oxidation reactions in breastmilk in order to preserve vitamins, lipids, and other important compounds in the milk, and includes means to measure that sub-atmospheric pressure, so as to provide indications to the user that the correct container pressure has been obtained and maintained.



Inventors:
Rachuk, Kevin James (Harvard, IL, US)
Luzbetak, Mark A. (Kildeer, IL, US)
Application Number:
12/718734
Publication Date:
09/09/2010
Filing Date:
03/05/2010
Assignee:
MEDELA HOLDING AG (Baar, CH)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DESAI, KAUSHIKKUMAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A storage container for infant feed, comprising: a container for holding infant feed, said container being capable of maintaining a reduced pressure at least for a temporary timeframe; and a pressure indicator that determines a pressure within the storage container and displays said pressure on said container.

2. The storage container of claim 2, wherein the infant feed is a liquid stored at a sub-atmospheric pressure.

3. An improved storage container for infant feed, the infant feed being stored at a sub-atmospheric pressure, wherein the improvement comprises: a pressure indicating member, said member being moveable in response to a pressure difference between an inside of the storage container and atmospheric pressure, and providing a visual indication of the pressure inside the container.

4. The storage container of claim 3, wherein said container comprises a valve and a cap, wherein said cap provides an additional seal over said valve to prevent pressure leakage for long term storage.

5. The storage container of claim 3, wherein said container is opaque to ultra-violet light.

6. A pressure indicator for use with a container for storing infant feed, wherein said pressure indicator comprises a member that is mounted on said container to move in response to an applied vacuum within said container, and thereby provides an indication viewable to a user of the pressure within the container.

7. The pressure indicator of claim 6, wherein said pressure indicator is present on a lid of said container.

8. The pressure indicator of claim 6, wherein said pressure indicator is on a wall of said container.

9. A method of preserving breastmilk in a container from oxidation by air, comprising injecting a layer of argon gas into the interior container in an amount sufficient to blanket the milk surface, and closing the container against air ingress to said container interior.

10. A storage container for breastmilk, comprising: a container having an interior for holding breastmilk therein, said container being capable of maintaining a reduced pressure for at least a temporary timeframe; and a pressure indicator mounted on said container that communicates with said container interior a pressure within the storage container, and displays an indication of that pressure in a manner viewable on said container.

11. The storage container of claim 10, wherein said pressure indicator is a moveable member mounted within a chamber, said chamber having one side open to atmosphere and another side communicating with said container interior, said member being biased to a first position when said container interior is at equilibrium with atmosphere, and moveable against said bias in a predetermined manner when said container interior is subjected to a reduced pressure relative to atmosphere.

12. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said moveable member has at least one marker thereon which registers with a scale to indicate relative pressure in said container interior.

13. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said moveable member has a scale thereon which registers with a marker to indicate relative pressure in said container interior.

14. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said chamber is formed within a removable cap which closes said container interior.

15. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said container has a port adapted for connection with a source of vacuum, said port having a one way valve therein closing said port against ingress of air when said container interior is at a reduced pressure.

16. The storage container of claim 10, wherein said pressure indicator is a resilient tube that is closed at one end and open at another end, said open end being in communication with said container interior, said tube collapsing upon itself to indicate a relative reduced pressure in said container interior.

17. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said moveable member is a bellows.

18. The storage container of claim 11, wherein said moveable member is a bellows that is closed at one end and open at another end, said open end being in communication with said container interior, said bellows collapsing axially upon itself to indicate a relative reduced pressure in said container interior, said bellows having at least one marker thereon which registers with a scale on said chamber to indicate relative pressure in said container interior.

19. A method for the storage of breastmilk, wherein the method comprises: providing a source of a non-oxidizing barrier from air gas in a delivery device; connecting said delivery device to a port in a container within which breastmilk is contained; and delivering a sufficient amount of said gas to said container to yield a non-oxidizing layer of said gas over the breastmilk.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 61/158,058 filed Mar. 6, 2009, entitled “Improved Storage Device for Infant Feed,” the contents of which are fully incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to an improved storage device for infant feed, and most particularly to an improved storage device for the storage of expressed breastmilk.

BACKGROUND

It is common for mothers who are away from their babies and cannot directly breastfeed their infants to express breastmilk and store it for feeding at a later time. Common means for storing breastmilk are to keep the breastmilk in a container at room temperature, typically for approximately four hours, or to store the breastmilk in a soft side cooler with an ice pack, typically for approximately twenty-four hours. Alternatively, breastmilk may be kept in the refrigerator for approximately five to seven days, stored in a conventional freezer for months, or in a deep freezer for even longer.

Most milk storage guidelines have been compiled from bacterial load research conducted to identify the time and temperature required to prevent bacterial growth in breastmilk. However, other components of breastmilk are affected by these same conditions. For example, an important nutritional quality of breastmilk lays in its n-6 and n-3 long-chain PUFA content. Fatty acids such as these, however, are prone to oxidation over time. The oxidation reactions that take place over time when breastmilk is in contact with the air destroy the vitamins, lipids, and other important compounds.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is the goal of the present invention to help moms provide optimal conditions for milk storage. Specifically, this invention in one aspect utilizes sub-atmospheric pressure to reduce, or at least slow down, the oxidation reactions in breastmilk in order to preserve vitamins, lipids, and other important compounds in the milk, and includes means to measure that sub-atmospheric pressure, so as to provide indications to the user that the correct container pressure has been obtained and maintained.

Another aspect of the present invention provides for the injection of a layer of gas, such as argon or nitrogen gas, into the milk container. This layer would be in an amount so as to blanket the milk surface, serving to isolate the milk from the atmosphere and thus reduce any harmful oxidation reactions.

In an exemplary embodiment, a storage container for storing infant feed at a reduced pressure is provided that comprises a pressure indicator. The pressure indicator determines a pressure within the storage container and displays that pressure on the container. Thus, a user can easily observe the pressure value within the container. The container would be able to maintain the reduced pressure for at least a temporary timeframe.

In another embodiment, a storage container for infant feed is provided. The infant feed is stored at a sub-atmospheric pressure. The container comprises a member, wherein the member moves in response to an applied vacuum within the container, thus providing a visual indication of the pressure inside the container. The member may be biased to a first position when the container is at equilibrium with the atmosphere, and moveable against the bias in a predetermined manner when the container interior is subjected to a reduced pressure relative to the atmosphere.

These and other aspects, objects, and accomplishments of the present invention will be further understood upon consideration of the following detailed description of certain embodiments, taken in conjunction with the below FIGS. 1 through 10b depicting various embodiments, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an illustration of an exemplary container for use with a pressure indicator mechanism made in accordance with one aspect of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration in section of a spring and plunger mechanism to indicate pressure within a container made in accordance with one aspect of the invention;

FIG. 3a is an illustration in section of an exemplary elastomeric dome to indicate pressure within a container in a first position made in accordance with one aspect of the invention;

FIG. 3b is an illustration of the exemplary elastomeric dome of FIG. 3a in a second position;

FIG. 4a is an illustration in section of an exemplary deformable tube to indicate pressure within a container in a first position made in accordance with one aspect of the invention;

FIG. 4b is an illustration of the exemplary deformable tube of FIG. 4a in a second position;

FIG. 4c is an illustration in section of an exemplary deformable tube to indicate pressure within a container in a first position;

FIG. 4d is an illustration of the exemplary deformable tube of FIG. 4c in a second position;

FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary bellows gauge according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6a illustrates in schematic form and in section, another exemplary bellows gauge to indicate pressure within a container according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6b illustrates in section an exemplary bellows gauge according to the embodiment of FIG. 6a;

FIG. 7a illustrates in section an exemplary traversing indicator to indicate pressure within a container according to a further embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7b illustrates a top view of the traversing indicator of FIG. 7a;

FIG. 7c illustrates an alternative traversing indicator according to a modified embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8a illustrates in schematic form an exemplary electronic pressure transducer to indicate pressure within a container used in accordance with an aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 8b illustrates in section the electronic pressure transducer of FIG. 8a;

FIG. 9 illustrates still a further exemplary elastomeric member to indicate pressure within a container, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10a illustrates an exemplary embodiment of a container designed for the modification of the atmosphere inside the container; and

FIG. 10b illustrates another exemplary embodiment of a container designed for the modification of the atmosphere inside the container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is an illustration of an exemplary container 100. Container 100 is used to store infant feed, such as breastmilk. Container 100 comprises a plurality of walls 110 and a closure 120. A pressure-indicator mechanism 130, such as one of the exemplary pressure-indicator mechanisms discussed herein, is present on closure 120. In an alternative embodiment, pressure-indicator mechanism 130 may be present on one of the plurality of walls 110 of container 100. In this alternative embodiment, pressure-indicator mechanism 130 may be integral with one of the plurality of walls 110.

When a vacuum is created from a vacuum source, the pressure within the container is altered, and the pressure-indicator mechanism shows the user the current status of the pressure within container 100.

A vacuum is pulled within container 100 using a pip 140, within which is fixed a one-way valve 142. Pip 140 communicates with the container interior, and is designed for use with a vacuum pump that can attach directly to the pip, or through a tube. It is contemplated that a breast pump assembly used to extract the milk could readily be adapted to function as the vacuum pump, including a manually operated pump. Valve 142 may be a duckbill, umbrella, or the like, and is mounted within the pip, allowing air out but not in.

In an alternative embodiment, container 100 may simply have an injection location on one of the walls 110 comprising a one-way valve. Container 100 may also comprise a check valve and a cap, wherein the cap provides an additional seal over the check valve to prevent pressure leakage for long term storage. Container 100 may also comprise a cap to be placed on one-way valve 142 to seal valve 142 closed when the cap is on the valve. Container 100 may be made opaque to ultra-violet light.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view of a spring and plunger mechanism used to indicate the current pressure within a container such as container 100. Mechanism 200 comprises a housing 210 and a plunger 220 mounted on a spring 230. Housing 210 comprises a top wall 212, bottom wall 214, first side wall 216, and second side wall 218 that define a cavity 240. A top opening 213 extends through top wall 212 and a bottom opening 215 extends through bottom wall 214.

Spring 230 is positioned within cavity 240. Plunger 220 is affixed to spring 230. Plunger 220 has a scale 222 comprising a series of number values that correspond to pressure values.

Seals 224 may be present on the sidewalls 226 of the base 219 of plunger 220, to ensure that air from the atmosphere does not leak into the portion of cavity 240 underneath plunger base 219, and ultimately preventing any leaked air from entering the storage container. This is shown as an o-ring type seal 224, seated in an appropriate circular channel of the plunger base 219. Spring 230 may be sized such that the edges of the spring are near the walls that define cavity 240. The bottom of spring 230 rests on the bottom wall 214 of housing 210.

In operation, spring 230 is at a rest position when the pressure within cavity 240 is equal to the pressure of the atmosphere outside of the storage container. At the rest position, plunger 220 extends through top opening 213 and scale 222 shows a value of “0” in-line with the top surface 217 of top wall 212 of housing 210. When a vacuum is applied to cavity 240 through bottom opening 215 from evacuation of the milk container 100, the plunger is pulled against the force of spring 230 toward bottom wall 214. In turn, a new value along sliding scale 222 registers the value of the new pressure within cavity 240. Spring 230 is configured to move a distance that corresponds to a certain pressure increase or decrease, resulting in an accurate reading on the scale 222. When the vacuum is released, spring 230 will naturally return to its rest position (of “0”).

FIGS. 3a and 3b illustrate a cross-sectional side view of a housing 300 with an exemplary elastomeric dome 310. Housing 300 has a cavity 320. FIG. 3a shows elastomeric dome 310 in a first position, when the pressure within cavity 320 is equal to atmospheric pressure. As can be seen in FIG. 3a, dome 310 in the first position comprises an arch 314.

FIG. 3b illustrates dome 310 in a second position, now inverted. Line 315 illustrates where arch 314 was in FIG. 3a to show the displacement of the arch. Arch 316 shows the new location in this second position. In operation, a vacuum is applied within cavity 320, causing dome 310 to collapse in relation to cavity 320.

Thus, a user examining dome 310 on a container can plainly see from examination of the shape of dome 310 whether the pressure within the container has been effectively decreased.

FIGS. 4a and 4b illustrate an exemplary deformable tube mechanism 400. Mechanism 400 comprises a deformable tube 430. Deformable tube 430 comprises a first portion 432, a second portion 434, and a third portion 436. First and third portions 432, 436 extend essentially parallel to and preferably abut a top wall 410 of a housing or a container so as to create a seal, preventing air external to the container from entering the container. In the first position illustrated in FIG. 4a, second portion 434 comprises an arch to the housing or container. When a pre-determined vacuum is applied within the housing or container, second portion 434 of deformable tube 430 collapses, with each side 436, 438 being drawn toward the other side, as shown in FIG. 4b. In the collapsed second position shown in FIG. 4b, sides 436, 438 may touch.

In an alternative configuration, FIG. 4c illustrates deformable tube mechanism 400 in a position inverted from the position of FIG. 4a. Specifically, in the deformable tube's initial, natural state shown in FIG. 4c, first and third portions 432, 436 are affixed above top wall 410 of the housing or container, and each side 437, 438 of second portion 434 is drawn inward toward the other side. In this initial position, sides 437, 438 may touch. In addition, a window 440 is placed over deformable tube mechanism 400. Window 440 is preferably clear so that a user can see through the window surface to observe deformable tube mechanism 400, and is affixed to the exterior surface of the housing or container. When a vacuum is applied within the housing or container, as shown in FIG. 4d, the vacuum causes the volume within tube 400 to expand, so the sides 437, 438 move away from each other. The bottom of the second portion 434 may be tinted with a signaling color 439 so that when a user looks through window 440, if the user sees the signaling color 439, the user will know a vacuum is applied. As seen in FIG. 4c, indicator 439 is blocked by sides 437, 438 when second portion 434 is in the initial state, and is thus not viewable to the user. The deformable tube is preferably made from a resilient member, such that if the air returns to atmospheric pressure, sides 437, 438 will return to the natural state of FIG. 4c.

FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary bellows gauge mechanism according to one embodiment of the present invention, operating very similarly to the FIG. 2 embodiment. Mechanism 500 comprises a housing 510 and a plunger 520 mounted on a bellows 530. Housing 510 comprises a top wall 512, a bottom wall 514, a first side wall 516, and a second sidewall 518 that define a cavity 513. A top opening 515 extends through top wall 512 and a bottom opening 517 extends through bottom wall 514. Bellows 530 is positioned within cavity 513.

Bellows 530 comprises a top surface 532 and a bottom 534 and contains an elastic element 536 that is convoluted or accordion-like, that expands and contracts axially with changes in pressure. The elastic element 536 in bellows 530 may be made of plastic, brass, phosphor bronze, stainless steel, beryllium-copper, or another metal or material that is biocompatible and capable of returning to a first, or rest, position on its arm in this bellows configuration. Plunger 520 is affixed to the top surface 532 of bellows 530 and extends through top opening 515 as bellows 530 is extended. The bottom 534 of bellows 530 is retained within a slot formed by extensions 550 and bottom wall 514 of housing 510, which seals the bottom to the sidewall, and prevents ingress of air to the container through the mechanism.

Bellows 530 is configured such that it moves a certain distance in relation to a unit of pressure change. Thus when a vacuum is applied to cavity 513, bellows 530 contracts axially in correspondence with the change in pressure, and the affixed plunger 520 moves axially along with bellows 530. Plunger 520 has a scale 522 with number values spaced axially along the plunger. These number values correspond to pressure values. As plunger 520 moves axially in response to the pressure change, the number value corresponding to the pressure within cavity 513 will be displayed at the top surface of top wall 512. Thus, a user can easily see the pressure value within cavity 513.

FIGS. 6a and 6b illustrate another exemplary bellows gauge mechanism 600. FIG. 6a is a top view of a housing 610, comprising a top wall 612 and a top opening 613 that extends through top wall 612. In FIG. 6a, an indicator 621 can be seen through top opening 613. The indicator 621 is attached to a bellows 620, shown in FIG. 6b. A clear window may cover top opening 613, with an air leakage to ambient air provided for cavity 615. Housing 610 may be made from an opaque plastic or other material. Alternatively, housing 610 may be made from a clear plastic, and may not require an additional window piece, which would still allow a user to view the pressure indication. A scale 611 is present on top wall 112.

FIG. 6b is a cross-sectional side view of housing 610. A cavity or chamber 615 is defined by a top wall 612, a bottom wall 614, a first side wall 618 and a second side wall 619. The bottom 632 of bellows 620 is retained and sealed on extensions 616 on walls 614 and 612.

Bellows 620 expands with an increasing applied vacuum on the interior of the container. A user can view how far bellows 620 has expanded, or thereafter contracted, through opening 613, using the indicator 621 as a marker along the scale 611 of pressure values listed on top wall 612.

FIGS. 7a and 7b illustrate an exemplary traversing indicator according to one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7a shows a cross-sectional view of a side of a housing 710. Housing 710 comprises a top wall 712, bottom wall 714, a first side wall 716, and a second side wall 718 that define a cavity or chamber 711. A top opening 713 extends through top wall 712, with a window 750 covering it (much like in embodiment shown in FIGS. 6a and 6b). A second opening 715 extends through first side wall 716. A bellows 720 is present within cavity 711. The bottom 723 of bellows 720 is retained and sealed to an edge defining an opening in the wall 716 of housing 710. The top of bellows 720 comprises a link 722 that is affixed to a moveable indicator 740. Moveable indicator 740 comprises various faces or tags 742, each tag having a number value representing a pressure value. Each tag may also comprise a different color to help a user distinguish between different tags. Window 750 has a size large enough to view the number value present on a tag is present over top opening 713. In operation, when a vacuum is applied to second opening 715 (from the container interior), bellows 720 contracts, pulling moveable indicator 740 via link 722 in the direction of second opening 715. Thus, the tag that appears through window 750 corresponds to the pressure value representing the pressure through opening 715.

FIG. 7b illustrates a top view of housing 710, showing top wall 712 with window 750 allowing a user to view the pressure value indicated on tag 742.

In an alternative embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7c, instead of a bellows within cavity 711, a diaphragm 760 is present within cavity 711, serving a similar function of pulling link 722 toward second opening 715. For example, when a vacuum is applied to side 755 of the diaphragm 760, it is pulled toward the left (as FIG. 7c is normally viewed). As this transition takes place, moveable indicator 740 is pulled via the link.

FIG. 8a illustrates an expanded view of an exemplary electronic pressure transducer used according to one embodiment of the present invention. Pressure transducer 800 is present on a housing 810 and comprises a pressure transducer 820, an electrical connector 830, a microchip 840, and a digital or analog read-out 850. Pressure transducer 820 contains a diaphragm that is deformed when a vacuum is applied through transducer 820. The vacuum is shown by arrow 860. The diaphragm comprises a resistant sensor, which takes a measurement of the diaphragm movement and generates a proportional signal. Electrical connector runs through a wall in housing 810, linking pressure transducer 820 to digital or analog read-out 850. Microchip 840 then converts that measurement to a pressure value. Thus, a user can observe the pressure value of the pressure within a container by looking at digital or analog read-out 850.

FIG. 8b illustrates a portion of the exemplary electronic pressure transducer of FIG. 8a, showing how the pieces may fit together. The position of microchip 840, digital or analog read-out 850, pressure transducer 820, and electrical connector 830 within housing 810 can be seen.

FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary pressure indicator mechanism 900 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. Pressure indicator mechanism 900 is contained within a housing 910. Housing 910 comprises a top wall 912, bottom wall 914, first side wall 916, and second side wall 918, defining a cavity 917. A top opening 913 extends through top wall 912, and a bottom opening 915 is present in the bottom wall 914. Pressure indicator mechanism 900 comprises a spring 920, an indicator 930, and a diaphragm 940. Diaphragm 940 comprises an upper surface 942, a lower surface 943, and a ramp 944. The diaphragm 940 has concentric undulations formed thereon for flexibility in bending. Diaphragm 940 is sealed at its edges with the bottom wall 914.

When a vacuum is applied, shown by arrow 960, diaphragm 940 descends axially. As diaphragm 940 descends, ramp 944, which is affixed to or integral with diaphragm 940, moves (downwardly as viewed normally in FIG. 9). Indicator 930 rides along the ramp under the spring 920 force. Indicator 930 will thus move along ramp 944 until the ramp stops. A user can view, through top opening 913, indicator 930. Indicator 930 would have a scale with pressure values that are visible from top opening 913. The pressure value that is displayed to a user through top opening 913 is the value that corresponds with the pressure inside cavity 917.

FIGS. 10a and 10b illustrate methods to store breastmilk under a modified atmosphere which provides a blanketing layer of gas which that will not react with the breastmilk and will minimize the oxidation of air in the breastmilk.

FIG. 10a illustrates a method which may be employed if the blanketing gas has a molecular weight greater than air, such as argon. In this embodiment, a container 1001 is filled to the desired level with breastmilk 1002. Then, a blanketing layer of gas 1003 is injected through a container opening 1004 with an applicator 1005. Applicator 1005 is connected to a container of storage gas 1006, which supplies the gas. After the gas is supplied to container 1001, the applicator 1005 is removed and a container closure 1007 is applied to container 1001.

FIG. 10b illustrates a method which may be employed if the chosen blanketing gas is lighter than air, such as nitrogen for example. In this embodiment, the container 1001 is filled to the desired level with breastmilk 1002. A special closure lid 1007 which incorporates a sealing valve apparatus 1008 is applied to the container. The gas applicator 1005 is inserted into the sealing valve apparatus 1008, and the chosen gas within the container of storage gas 1006 is injected into sealed container 1001. Applicator 1005 is then removed from the sealing valve apparatus 1008 and the breastmilk is ready for storage.

Various exemplary embodiments and methods have been described above. Those skilled in the art will understand, however, that changes and modifications may be made to those examples without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. Additional and/or different features may be present in some embodiments of the present invention.