US 20020014793 A1
A infant seat insert in accordance with the present invention includes a backing that is positioned against the back wall of an infant seat, a plurality of first attachment parts that are attached to predetermined locations on the backing, and multiple support cushions. The support cushions include opposing head cushions which are formed with a hollow and include a lower collar portion, opposing torso cushions and a pelvis cushion. The head cushions, torso cushions and pelvis cushion each have a respective second attachment part fixed thereto, which allows for attachment of each respective cushion to the backing. When attached to the backing, the head cushions, torso cushions and pelvis cushions cooperate to establish a support space for the infant. When the infant is placed in the support space for transport, the hollows and lower collar portions of the head cushions prevent lolling of the infant's head, while the pelvis cushion and torso cushions prevent slumping of the infant within the child seat.
1. For an infant seat that includes a backwall and infant seat belts or an infant seat having openings through which vehicle seat belts extend, an insert assembly positioned within said infant seat and comprising:
a backing placed against said backwall;
a plurality of first attachment parts secured to predetermined locations on said backing; and,
multiple support cushions having shapes corresponding to selected portions of the body of an infant, said cushions having second attachment parts which are releasably attached to said first attachment parts, said cushions, in combination, defining a support space corresponding to an infant's body.
2. The insert assembly of
3. The insert assembly of
4. The insert assembly of
5. The insert assembly of
6. The insert assembly of
7. The insert assembly of
8. The insert assembly of
9. A method for transporting a premature/lower birthweight infant in a vehicle which comprises the steps of:
(A) providing an infant seat that includes a backwall and infant seat belts or openings through which vehicle seat belts extend;
(B) placing a backing against said backwall;
(C) fixing a plurality of first attachment parts to predetermined locations on said backing;
(D) furnishing a plurality of multiple support cushions having shapes corresponding to selected portions of the body of said infant;
(E) attaching each of a plurality of second attachment parts to a respective support cushions; and,
(F) releasably mounting said support cushions to said backing in a manner which defines a support space closely corresponding to said body of said infant.
10. The method of
(G) forming a hollow in two of said support cushions, said forming step further establishing a lower collar portion in said support cushions that include said hollow; and,
(H) positioning said support cushions from said step (G) around the head of said infant so that said hollows closely conform to said infant's head.
11. The method of claim wherein step (H) causes said lower collar portion to engage the neck area of said infant.
 With reference now to FIGS. 1 and 2, an infant seat insert, as currently known in the prior art, is shown and generally designated by reference character 10. As shown, the insert essentially consists of a plurality of rolled fabric items 12 such as towels, for example, which are used in conjunction with an infant seat 14.
 The infant seat is formed with a back wall 16, side walls 18, 19 and a bottom wall 20. A pair of infant seat belts 21, 21 extend from back wall and are selectively buckled to the bottom wall at a buckle 22 in a manner well known in the prior art. With an infant 23 seated in the infant seat, the head 24 and torso 25 rest against the back wall, while the infant legs 26 rest upon the bottom wall, as shown in FIG. 1. The seat belts are placed over the torso and connected to the buckle.
 There are different seat belt configurations for the prior art infant seat shown in FIGS. 1-2 and 4-5. Some seat belts (not shown) extend both from the back wall and the side walls and connect to the buckle in what is known as a “five-point harness” in the prior art. Other seat belts extend from the back wall and terminate in a “T-shield” (not shown), and the T-shield is then connected to buckle 22. Other, “3-point harness” and “tray shield” are also known in the prior art. It is to be appreciated, however, that the infant seat insert of the present invention is adapted to fit infant seats with all of the different belt configurations as mentioned above and known in the prior art, in addition to the belt configuration shown in the Figures.
 With the infant secured with the infant seat as described above, the fabric items are rolled or wadded up and wedged between the infant and the back wall, side walls and bottom wall of the infant seat. This conforms the fabric items into a somewhat L-shaped configuration. A separate clothing item 28 is further rolled up, formed into a U-shape, or merely wadded up, and placed between the infant seat belts and the infant pelvis (not shown in FIGS. 1 and 2).
 Referring now to FIGS. 3-5, the infant seat insert assembly of the present invention is shown and is generally designated 30. The insert includes a backing 31 with an upper section 32, a middle section 33 and a lower section 34, as well as a front face 35 which opposes an underside 46. The backing is preferably rectangular in shape and is bounded by a top edge 36, a pair of opposing side edges 37, 38 and a bottom edge 40. In an alternative embodiment of the invention, however, the lower section 34 of the insert backing can have a decreasing transverse taper from middle section 33 to bottom edge 40, in order to avoid interfering with lap seat belts on certain infant seat models (not shown).
 As shown in FIGS. 3-5, notch 41 a is cut into side edge 37 between upper section 32 and middle section 33 and extends therefrom approximately two thirds toward the centerline of the backing. Similarly, notch 41 b is cut into side edge 38. Tab 43 a is attached to the backing at the upper side 44 a of notch 41 a, and tab 43 a extends downwardly from upper side 44 a, across the notch and past lower side 47 a. A tab patch 45 a is attached to the underside 46 of the backing immediately below the lower side 47 a of the notch (notch corner 48 of the backing is upturned in FIG. 3, to show the structure of tab patch 45 a), and tab 43 a is removably attached to tab patch 45 a. The structure of upper side 44 b and lower side 47 b of notch 41 b, tab 43 b and tab patch 45 b (not shown) is similar to that described above.
 Proceeding toward the top edge 36 of the backing from the notches, the upper section includes a pair of opposing upper attachment parts 50 a, 50 b that are mounted to the front face. Specifically, upper attachment part 50 a is mounted to the front face proximate side edge 37 so that it is positioned directly above notch 41 a and between notch 41 a and top edge 36 of backing 31. Similarly, upper attachment part 50 b is mounted proximate side edge 38 and between notch 41 b and the backing top edge.
 Proceeding downwardly from the notches into the middle section 34, a pair of opposing middle attachment parts 54 a, 54 b are mounted to the front face. Middle attachment part 54 a is mounted proximate side edge 37 and directly below notch 41 a, and middle attachment part 54 b is mounted proximate side edge 38 and directly below notch 41 b.
 A pair of chafing wraps 52 a, 52 b are mounted to the front face of the backing (Wrap 52 b is omitted in FIG. 3 for clarity). Wrap 52 a is mounted to the front face immediately below notch 41 a and inboard of attachment part 54 a. Wrap 52 b is similarly mounted near notch 41 b and middle attachment part 54 b, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5.
 In the lower section 34 of the insert backing, a lower attachment part 56 (shown in phantom) is mounted to underside 46 of the backing proximate bottom edge 40, so that the lower attachment part is transversely centered on the backing.
 The insert assembly of the present invention includes a pair of head cushions 58 a, 58 b that are sized and shaped to closely conform to an infant head and neck. Specifically, each head cushion has a top side 60, a bottom side 62, an inner side 64 and an outer side 66. Head cushion 58 a further has a front side 68 and a mating side 70. The inner side of head cushion is formed with a recessed hollow 72 and the recessed hollow establishes an upper collar portion 74 and a lower collar portion 76 on the inner side of the head cushion.
 A head cushion attachment part 78 is attached to the mating side of the head cushion. To releasably attach the head cushions to the backing, the head cushion attachment parts 78, 78 for each cushion are mated to a respective upper attachment part 50 a, 50 b on the upper section of the backing. The hollow and lower collar portion of the head cushions allow for placement of the head cushions in a manner that more closely conforms to the shape of an infant's head and neck (as best seen in FIG. 5). This prevents any lolling of the head when the head cushions are mated to the backing and an infant is seated in the infant seat. The shape of the head cushions can be modified according the design needs, aesthetics and end user requirements, provided the inner sides of the head cushions are formed with a recessed hollows and the lower collar portion closely conforms to the head and neck area of the infant when the head cushion is mated to the backing.
 A pair of opposing torso cushions 80,80 are also included in the insert assembly of the present invention. Each torso cushion is somewhat-oblong shaped with an upper portion 82 that merges into a lower portion 84 and formed with a flat torso rear surface 86, torso front surface 88 and two torso side surfaces 90, 90. The length of the torso cushion is sized to be correspond to the distance from the lower seat belt aperture 91 to the lower edge 93 of the rear wall, plus the distance from lower edge 93 to front edge 95 of the bottom wall. A torso attachment part 92 is fixed to torso rear surface 86 in the upper portion of the torso cushion.
 To attach the torso cushions 80, 80 to the backing, each torso attachment part is mated to a respective middle attachment part 54 a, 54 b. Once attached to the backing, the torso cushions are positioned under notches 41 a, 41 b and oriented longitudinally along the respective side edges 37, 38. The lower portion of each torso cushion extends downwardly past the bottom edge 40 of the insert. In the preferred embodiment, once the torso cushions as oriented relative to the backing as discussed above, the cushions are sewn thereon to the permanently attach the torso cushions to the backing.
 To prevent the infant from slumping when seated within the infant seat, the insert of the present invention includes a pelvis cushion 94. The pelvis cushion is formed with a somewhat D-shaped, flat pelvis cushion back side 96, a flat pelvis cushion bottom side 98, and a spherical front side 100, and a pelvis attachment part 102 is attached to the pelvis cushion bottom side.
 To mate the pelvis cushion to the backing, a tongue attachment part 104 is sewn onto a tongue 106, as best seen in FIG. 3. Next, a portion of the tongue attachment part is mated to the lower attachment part on the underside of the backing. Finally, the pelvis attachment part 102 is mated to a portion of the tongue attachment part.
 In the preferred embodiment, the pelvis cushion is attached to the front face so that the arcuate portion of the D-shaped pelvis cushion back side is facing toward the backing middle section. With this configuration, the pelvis cushion closely conforms to the pelvis to thereby prevent slumping of the infant when seated in the infant seat. It is to be appreciated, however, that other polygonal shapes are envisioned for the pelvis cushion, provided the cushion closely conforms to the pelvis when attached to the tongue as described above.
 In the preferred embodiment, the head cushions, torso cushions, pelvis cushion and backing are made of a polyurethane material (such as Isotonic™ by Carpenter Company), which is further covered with a cloth material, such a cotton/synthetic fiber mixture. This allows for increased comfort of the infant and allows the cushions and backing to be cleaned in a quick and easy manner. It is to be appreciated, however, that other materials could be used in place of polyurethane, such as urethane foam, rubber products, or plastic filler materials, bladders, gel fillers or granular materials. The tabs, tab patches and attachment parts are made with fabric and Velcro® material and sewn to the backing/cushions in a manner known in the art. Other attachment means, however, could be used. Examples are snaps, safety pins, clips and zippers.
 To secure the backing to the infant seat 16, the insert is placed into seat 16 so that the upper section 32 and middle section 33 are against the back wall 16 and the lower section 34 rests upon the bottom wall 20. Infant seat belts 21, 21 are slipped into a respective notch 41 a, 41 b, as best seen in FIG. 4. Next, tab 43 a is fastened to the tab patch 45 a and tab 43 b is fastened to tab patch 45 b. The use of Velcro® for the tabs and tab patches allows for slight adjustment as necessary to snugly nest the backing against the infant seat back wall and bottom wall.
 To secure the infant in the infant seat for transport, the infant is placed in the infant seat so that the torso and head of the infant rest against the upper section and the torso and pelvis rests against the middle section of the backing. When in this position, the infant legs 26 will rest upon the lower section 34 of the backing. Next the chafing wraps are wrapped around seat belts 21, 21 to cover the seat belts. The wraps inhibit chafing or irritation of the infant's skin when the infant is seated in the infant seat insert assembly, as best seen in FIG. 4.
 The head cushions are attached to the upper section of the backing on opposing sides of the infant head so that the head is positioned between the head cushions. Importantly, the recessed hollow areas closely conform to the infant head and the lower collar portions closely conform to the infant neck area, as discussed above and best seen in FIG. 5. This prevents lolling of the infant head when the infant is seated in the infant seat.
 The torso cushions are attached to the middle section on opposite sides of the infant torso as discussed above. This places a torso cushion between the infant and infant seat side walls 18, 19 and thereby prevents any transverse motion of the torso and pelvis for the infant when seated in the insert assembly. Finally, the pelvis cushion is attached to the lower section of the backing as described above to position the pelvis cushion between the infant pelvis and the infant seat buckle. The D-shape of the pelvis cushion bottom side engages the infant pelvis and retains the pelvis against the back wall of the infant seat, thereby preventing slumping of the infant where seated therein.
 When configured as described above, the head cushions, torso cushions and pelvis cushion for the insert assembly of the present invention combine to define a support space that closely corresponds to the overall shape of the infant body to provide a safe posture for the infant during transport and that enables the car seat to protect the way it was designed.
 While the particular infant seat insert, as herein shown and disclosed in detail, is fully capable of obtaining the objects and providing the advantages above stated, it is to be understood that the presently preferred embodiments are merely illustrative of the invention. As such, no limitations are intended other than as defined in the appended claims.
 The novel features of this invention will be best understood from the accompanying drawings, taken in conjunction with the accompanying description, in which similar characters refer to similar parts, and in which:
FIG. 1 is a prior art front elevational view of an infant positioned in an infant seat with rolled up fabric items.
FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the infant seat of FIG. 1 with the infant and fabric items removed.
FIG. 3 is an isometric exploded view of the infant seat insert assembly of the present invention.
FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the insert backing of FIG. 3 positioned in an infant seat, with the cushions removed for clarity.
FIG. 5 is the same view as FIG. 4, with the cushions included and with an infant seated in the infant seat.
 The present invention pertains to car seats for infants. The invention is particularly, but not exclusively, useful as an insert for a car seat that maintains a proper posture for, but not limited to, a premature/low birthweight infant by supporting the infant's head, trunk and pelvis when the infant is seated therein.
 It is well known that the use of restraining belts, or seat belts, provide an increased measure of safety for passengers within a moving vehicle. Typically, however, seat belts are sized and designed to be used by adults, and they may be ineffective when used by children. For this purpose, car seats for children have become well known in the prior art. Car seats provide increased safety for children by providing a structure which adapts to the smaller size of a child, yet allows for use of the standard seat belt to secure the car seat to the vehicle seat.
 Even car seats, however, must be adapted to the needs of children, taking into consideration the size and physical development of the child. With respect to infants, the structure of the car seats must account for the undeveloped musculature of the infant, as well as the inability of the infant to sit unassisted.
 Premature/low birthweight infants present an even greater vehicle safety problem. This is because car seats that are sized for infants may still be too big for a premature infant. Accordingly, when premature infants are placed in the car seat, the infant slumps down and thereby establishes an incorrect posture during transport. Further, premature infant neck muscles are even weaker than those of a normal infant. Without added support for the head, the infant's head will loll when the premature infant is seated in the car seat. This is an undesirable condition with potentially serious health consequences.
 To compensate for the size of the infant, fabric items such as blankets, clothing and towels are rolled or wadded up and then wedged between the sides of the infant and the car seat to properly position the infant for transport. With such an arrangement, however, the items may become unwound and/or dislodged while the car is in motion. If the driver is alone in the vehicle, it is difficult to know whether the item has come loose, as car seats are placed in the back seat of vehicles in a rear-facing position. What is needed is a car seat insert that closely conforms to a premature/low birthweight infant's body, and that also conforms to the car seat so that the infant is securely positioned within the car seat with a good posture and does not interfere with the safety function of the car seat.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,916,089, which issued to Ive for an invention entitled “Support Article For Use With Infant Carrier Device”, discloses a pad for a child seat with a first section having a raised cushion assembly, a pair of cushion elements for the torso that are adjustable, and a crotch support. Importantly, however, the Ive patent does not disclose head support means that are formed with hollows in order to more closely conform to the infant's head. Instead, Ive discloses an elongated support pillow which does not closely conform to the infant's head. With this configuration, the support pillow presents the same problems as a rolled-up blanket or towel with respect to preventing lolling of the infant's head.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,383,713, which issued to Roston for an invention entitled “Orthopedic Support Apparatus for Infants”, discloses a device in which a pillow having an outer flange and formed with a central aperture is attached to a planar sheet. Roston further discloses a pair of lateral supports for supporting the infant's torso. The flange for the pillow as disclosed by Roston, however, is not formed with hollows in order to closely conform to a premature infant's head and prevent lolling of the head. Further, Roston does not disclose any manner of supporting the infant's pelvis when the infant is placed in the support apparatus.
 In light of the above, it is an object of the present invention to provide an insert for an infant seat that provides support for an infant's head to prevent lolling of the head when the infant is placed in the seat. It is another object of the present invention to provide an infant seat insert that provides support to position an infant's pelvis in a manner which prevents the infant from slumping when the infant is seated therein. Another object of the present invention is to provide an insert for an infant seat that can be adjusted to closely conform to the shape of the infant's body. Yet another object of the present invention is to provide an infant seat insert that can be used with other devices for infant transport and restraint, such as strollers and infant carriers. Another object of the present invention is to provide an infant seat insert that can easily be placed and removed from the infant seat. Another object of the present invention is to provide an infant seat insert that is comparatively cost effective to manufacture. A final object of the present invention is to provide an infant seat insert that can be manufactured in a range of costs, according to the types of materials used, in order to target various economic consumer levels.
 An infant seat insert in accordance with the present invention includes a backing and a plurality of first attachment parts that are secured to predetermined locations on the backing. The infant seat insert also includes a plurality of multiple support cushions, with each support cushion having a respective second attachment part that can be releasably attached to a first attachment part on the backing.
 The support cushions include a pair of head cushions. Each head cushion is formed with a hollow on the inside surface of the head cushion. This further establishes a lower collar portion on both head cushions. For attachment of the head cushions to the backing, the second attachment part for each respective head cushion is mated to a corresponding first attachment part on the backing. Once the head cushions are attached to the backing, the above-described structure of the head cushions allows for the lower collar portion to engage the neck of the infant while the hollow simultaneously conforms to the shape of the infants head. This prevents lolling of the infants head when the infant is seated therein.
 The support cushions for the insert of the present invention also include a pelvis cushion and a pair of opposing torso cushions. A second attachment part is attached to the back of both the pelvis cushion and to each torso cushion, to allow for releasable placement of the pelvis cushion and torso cushions on the backing in a similar manner as for the above-described head cushions.
 During operation, the backing is placed against the backwall of a vehicle infant seat, and the infant is placed in the seat. The head cushions are positioned around the infant's head so that the hollow closely conforms to the infant's head and the lower collar portion softly engages the infant's neck, to thereby prevent lolling of the infant's head. The pelvis cushion is placed between the infant's legs so that it abuts the infants pelvis and is attached to the backing, and the torso cushions are attached to the backing on each side of the infant's torso. Once attached, the lower portions of the torso cushions extend beyond the bottom edge of the backing and gently abut the outer surfaces of the infant's legs. When positioned in this manner, the torso cushions, pelvis cushion and head cushions cooperate to establish a support space for the infant and thereby prevent lolling of the infant's head and slumping of the infant's body while the infant is seated in the car seat for transport.
 This application claims priority from Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/208,367, which was filed May 30, 2000.