The postpartum bra described utilizes a conically formed ice replacement
pack laminated between an outer and an inner insulating layer of
fabric as each of a pair of thermal bra cups. The bra cups are connected
to a horizontal back strap by a pair of shoulder straps. The back
strap and a connecting panel between the bra cups are elastic. A
pair of adjustable connectors between the back strap and the bra
cups allow the bra to be tightened selectively and successively
What is claimed is:
1. A bra for use by a non nursing mother after childbirth, comprising:
a. a first thermal bra cup and a second thermal bra cup each formed
with an outer thermally insulating layer including a heat-reflective
sheet, an inner thermally insulating layer, and a thermal middle
layer, and wherein the outer insulating layer has a higher insulation
factor than the inner insulating layer, the first and second thermal
bra cups being assembled to a connecting panel disposed therebetween;
b. a shoulder strap connected to an upper portion of each first
and second bra cup by a first end thereof; c. a back strap having
two opposed ends and connected at spaced apart positions to a second
end of each of the shoulder straps; d. a side belt connected to
a side portion of each first and second bra cup by a first end thereof;
e. a side belt receptor connected to each end of the opposed ends
of the back strap; f. a first connector element connected at a side
portion of each of the first and second bra cup; and g. a second
connector element connected at a second end of each of the side
belts allowing each side belt to pass through each respective side
belt receptor, each second connector element being able to releasably
engage a respective first connector element.
2. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the thermal middle layer
is formed of a material capable of retaining a temperature to which
the layer is exposed.
3. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the thermal middle layer
is formed of a semi-liquid able to remain substantially flexible
at temperatures below the freezing point of water.
4. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the second ends of the
shoulder straps reside closer to one another than the portion of
the shoulder straps passing over the shoulder of the wearer.
5. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the first and second connector
elements comprise a hook and loop fastener.
6. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the side belt receptor
comprises an elongate loop.
7. The bra described in claim 1 wherein the connecting panel is
formed of an elastic fabric and the back strap is formed of an elastic
8. A bra for use by a non nursing mother for the suppression of
milk production, comprising: a. a pair of bra cups connected to
one another with each bra cup connected to a shoulder strap; b.
a back strap connected in substantially perpendicular relation to
a second end of each of the shoulder straps; c. connector elements
to releasably connect the back strap to the bra cups for adjusting
the tightness of the bra around the body of the wearer; and d. each
of the pair of bra cups comprising an outer insulating layer including
a heat-reflective sheet, an inner insulating layer and a thermal
9. The bra described in claim 8 wherein the thermal middle layer
is formed of a semi-liquid material able to remain substantially
flexible at temperatures below the freezing point of water.
10. The bra described in claim 8 wherein the outer insulating
layer has a higher insulation factor than the inner insulating layer.
11. The bra described in claim 9 further comprising side belt
receptors formed as an elongate loop.
12. The bra described in claim 8 further comprising a connecting
panel between the two bra cups formed of an elastic fabric and wherein
the back strap is formed of an elastic fabric.
13. The bra described in claim 12 wherein the back strap has a
higher modulus of elasticity than the connecting panel.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to the field of undergarments for
women, and more particularly to a bra for use by a non nursing mother
during the postpartum period to reduce the accumulation of breast
milk and associated pain.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The female mammary glands produce milk in the time following childbirth
as a natural feeding method for the newborn infant. Milk is produced
and stored in the mother's breasts from the time of delivery until
several days after the cessation of breast feeding by the baby.
For various reasons, some women choose not to breast feed their
newborns, but to feed by means of a bottle containing commercially
available baby formulas. Irrespective of the decision to bottle
feed, the new mother's body produces and stores milk in anticipation
the newborn baby's needs. When the milk is not removed from the
breasts by a nursing infant, the breasts become engorged and painful.
In the past, a hormonal drug such as Deladumone was prescribed
to inhibit the production of milk in the breasts of the non nursing
mother, correcting the problem in a relatively short time. However,
this practice was discontinued several years ago when long-term
side effects of hormone therapy were often found to be potentially
dangerous. The selected replacement for hormonal drugs has been
the application of cold packs directly to the breasts, while physically
constricting the breasts. The cold discourages milk production,
and the constriction, or binding of the breasts, prevents significant
milk storage. This treatment has been accomplished by placing a
cold medium, such as a flexible ice replacement pack, into the bra
of the non nursing mother. Such a flexible ice replacement pack
is available from Chillerz (www.chillerz.com). Flexible ice replacements
are typically a plastic bag filled with a semi-liquid that retains
cold, but does not freeze to a solid at the temperature of a home
freezer. Alternately, chilled cabbage or similar leaves are used.
Concurrently, the breasts would be bound with a constricting binder,
such as an "ace bandage," to apply pressure on top of
the cold medium.
While these measures of cooling and compressing were reasonably
effective, wearing in one's bra a rectangular-shaped sack of cold,
semi-liquid material that is no more than moderately bendable, or
using chilled cabbage leaves, is hardly convenient and barely tolerable.
In addition, the ice replacement pack is uncomfortably cold in direct
contact with the skin, and the cabbage leaves do not remain cold
for an extended period, thus requiring frequent replacement.
The present invention, described and claimed in detail below, provides
an improved bra for use by non nursing mothers to diminish the production
of breast milk and overcome the drawbacks of the prior methods.
In addition, it is contemplated that since the period for elimination
of breast milk is no more than several days to a week, the bra of
the invention will have a short useful life and must be relatively
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The bra for postpartum, non nursing mothers is shaped similarly
to known bras, with the added features of including thermal elements
in the bra cups and an improved size adjustment mechanism to apply
pressure, reducing the retention of milk. The term thermal is intended
to mean able to absorb and transmit heat, i.e. by cooling the breasts
of the non nursing mother. The bra cup is formed with an outer insulating
layer and an inner insulating layer with a thermal element laminated
therebetween. The thermal element is formed of a conical outer sheet
and a conical inner sheet peripherally sealed to one another and
encapsulating a quantity of thermal semi-liquid capable of being
brought to a desired temperature and remaining cold over many hours.
The bra is worn by closing adjustable means at the left and right
sides enabling the user to periodically tighten the cups to the
body as the breast milk quantity is diminished.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention is best understood in conjunction with the
accompanying drawing figures in which like elements are identified
by similar reference numerals and wherein:
FIG. 1 is a front elevation view of the bra of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a rear elevation view of the bra of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a left side view of the bra of FIG. 1 with its side belt
passing through a receptor loop prior to closing.
FIG. 4 is a left side view of the bra of FIG. 1 with its side belt
passing through a receptor loop after closing.
FIG. 5 is an enlarged cross sectional view of the bra taken along
line 5--5 of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
In reference to FIG. 1 bra 10 for postpartum, non nursing mothers
includes a right thermal cup 12a and a left thermal cup 12b that
are generally formed conically to be comfortable to the wearer.
Right cup 12a is connected to left cup 12b by a connecting panel
22 preferably formed of an elastic material. A right shoulder strap
20a is connected to right cup 12a, and a left shoulder strap 20b
is connected to left cup 12b, as is known. The various components
of the invention bra 10 are assembled to one another by any convenient
means, typically by stitching. It is understood that bra 10 is depicted
in concept, and is adaptable to being manufactured in any range
of sizes as is known in the trade.
Referring now to the rear view of FIG. 2 and left side view of
FIG. 3 a single back strap 38 is assembled in substantially perpendicular
relation to a second end of each of left and right shoulder straps
20a and 20b. Back strap 38 is preferably formed of an elastic material.
The junctures 26a and 26b where shoulder straps 20a, 20b are connected
to back strap 38 are spaced at distance D from one another. Distance
D is less than the distance D' between the upper arcs of shoulder
straps 20a and 20b. A first side belt 24a is assembled to the lower
outer edge of right bra cup 12a, and a second side belt 24b is assembled
to the lower outer edge of left bra cup 12b. A connector element
32a is assembled to the lower side portion of right bra cup 12a
and a mating connector element 34a is assembled to a matching position
on the surface of side belt 24a. A connector element 32b is assembled
to the lower side portion of left bra cup 12b and a mating connector
element 34b is assembled to a matching position on the surface of
side belt 24b. In the illustrated embodiment of the invention, connector
elements 32a, 34a and 32b, 34b are hook-and-loop type elements (e.g.
Velcro.RTM.), while additional connector types, such as snaps or
hooks and eyes, may be utilized. A pair of side belt receptors,
shown as elongate loops 30a and 30b, are assembled to the opposed
ends of back strap 38. In use, the wearer places bra 10 over her
head and inserts respective side belts 24a, 24b through loops 30a
and 30b, then engages connector elements 32a and 34a, 32b and 34b
as shown in FIG. 4 to secure bra 10 around the body. Elongate loops
are preferred to keep side belts 24a and 24b flat against the side
of the wearer's body. The sizing and tightness of bra 10 may thus
be adjusted by selecting the preferred position of mating connector
elements 32 34. As bra 10 is adjusted more tightly with connector
elements 32 and 34 elastic back strap 38 is caused to elongate,
increasing the distance D between the lower junctures 26a, 26b to
somewhat straighten the rear portions of shoulder straps 20a, 20b.
Whereas connecting panel 22 is elastic, the modulus of elasticity
of back strap 38 is preferably greater than the modulus of elasticity
of connecting panel 22 to compensate for the difference in geometry.
The dimensions and degree of elasticity of each component is left
to the discretion of the designer. It is further contemplated that
the connector elements 32 34 and loop 30 may be a single connector
set located at any convenient position around the circumference
of bra 10 or alternately, having connector elements mounted on
either end of an elongate back strap and a loop strap receptor assembled
to an outer edge of each bra cup.
FIG. 5 illustrates an enlarged cross section of a typical thermal
bra cup, e.g. right bra cup 12a, to describe the detail of construction
thereof. Shoulder strap 20a and side belt 24a are shown as being
cut off to focus the following description on bra cup 12a. The body
of bra cup 12a is formed as a three-layer laminate comprising inner
layer 14a, thermal middle layer 16a and outer layer 18a. Inner layer
14a and outer layer 18a are formed of insulating fabric. The term
thermal as used herein may refer to a substantially warm or a substantially
cold component that is capable of absorbing and transmitting heat.
Middle layer 16a is formed as a substantially conically shaped flexible
ice replacement pack containing the above described semi-liquid
that is capable of maintaining a selected temperature for an extended
period of time. If the selected temperature is low, the semi-liquid
retains its flexibility to a far lower temperature than the freezing
point of water, thus being relatively comfortable for the wearer.
As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, thermal layer 16a
may be warmed and used to apply heat therapy for appropriate purposes.
In certain cases, application of warmth or heat to the breast of
a nursing mother has been prescribed to improve the flow of milk
Inner layer 14a acts both as the main support member for the breast
and as an insulating barrier within thermal layer 16a so that the
extreme coldness (or heat) is not in direct contact with the skin.
Otherwise, both discomfort and possible damage to the skin surface
might occur. The inner surface of inner layer 14a, being in direct
contact with the skin, must be comfortable to the touch. Outer layer
18a acts mainly as an insulating barrier to minimize the amount
of thermal transfer occurring between thermal layer 16a and the
surrounding atmosphere, with the temperature differential providing
maximum benefits the wearer. Therefore, it is preferred that outer
layer 18a has a higher insulation factor than inner layer 14a to
allow optimum heat flow from the breast to thermal layer 16a with
a minimal amount of heat entering thermal layer 16a from ambient
air. In one embodiment of the invention, a thin layer of heat-reflective
material such as a metallic Mylar.RTM. may be used as a part of
insulating layer 18a. During the process of elimination of milk
from the breast of the non nursing mother, side belts 24a, 24b are
gradually tightened to maintain pressure on the breasts, the continuous
pressure being assisted by the effect of the elasticity of connecting
panel 22 and back strap 38.
Whereas the primary use for the present invention is to suppress
milk production and eliminate associated pain, it is an objective
to gradually reduce the size of the breast as the process proceeds.
Both the effect of the cold and the binding pressure provided by
the adjustable connector elements and elastic components promote
this objective. It is further contemplated that temperatures more
moderate than freezing would be effective in suppressing milk production,
although a greater length of time would likely be required.
While the description above discloses preferred embodiments of
the present invention, it is contemplated that numerous variations
and modifications of the invention are possible and are considered
to be within the scope of the claims that follow.