Family

Inventive mom builds a better bib

SAN MATEO, Calif. — Shea Kelly is raising two fast-growing babies. One is her 26-month-old daughter, Marissa, the focal point of Kelly's life since her adoption in January 2006. The other is Chez Shea Baby LLC, her baby-products company responsible for what she hopes is the next big thing in baby bibs, DaBib.

With sales growing in the United States and as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia, DaBib's innovative design is catching on with relieved parents. Kelly already has several famous clients, some of whom received the new bibsin September at the Emmy Awards, where she spent $3,000 for a booth.

”This provides an elegant solution to parents,“ the Massachusetts native said of her creation. ”It's hard to imagine a more common activity than feeding your kid, and why hasn't somebody bothered to just make it right?“

Her first product has earned an iParenting Media Award, a product-evaluation-and-testing designation provided by iParenting.com, a Disney Internet Group media property. She was selected last August out of thousands of applicants in the feeding category. She launched the brand in October.

Kelly, 46, said she came up with DaBib out of necessity. She found that traditional scoop-neck bibs left her daughter's clothes stained and wet after every feeding. She wanted to spend less money on new clothing and less time laundering dirty clothes.

”My big thing initially was that I wanted something that would cover the neck. It's the simplest little thing, but most bibs are either ineffective, uncomfortable, or both,“ said Kelly, who previously spent 20 years in the field of human relations.

Kelly's solution to that problem is her patent-pending ”Scrunch Neckline,“ which is meant to thwart messes around the collar. She also wanted to improve on typical bib material with her two styles: Hugs and Giggles.

The Hugs bib is good for infants, Kelly said, because the micro-fiber terrycloth front absorbs the liquid food and dribble that inevitably accompany the first year of life, and the waterproof backing keeps liquids off the child's clothing.

Giggles is suitable for toddlers who are experimenting with real food. It is made entirely from a waterproof polyester fabric that wipes clean easily, an advance from the hard plastic bibs of the past.

Both bib styles are machine washable without shrinkage and have a crumb-catching pocket, which is hidden on the back of the bib and then folds forward to catch anything that falls from the child's mouth. The design keeps food from getting caught in the pocket's seams.

Kelly also wanted to improve the shape of bibs, so she made a curved design that fits all babies and covers their shoulders. And to save parents the money spent on bigger bib sizes every few months as babies grow, a single DaBib can fit an infant or a 2-year-old.

Kelly also is working on the second product from Chez Shea Baby: DaBurp, a new style of burping blanket that is curved to fit a parent's shoulder more comfortably.

Kelly tested her prototype bibs with the help of nearby parents and two day-care centers.

Michelle Shamuel, who owns one of the centers, said she uses DaBib on all the children at her center, including Kelly's daughter Marissa, a regular at Lil' Babes and a notorious dribbler.

”It works perfect for me,“ she said. ”I like the neck for babies who drool a lot … and (the crumb-catching pocket) catches food like crazy.“

In addition to Kelly's ­celebrity fans, including Kevin Dillon and Cheryl Hines, local moms shopping at Whole Foods Market in San Mateo said they were impressed with the bib.

”It looks great, it really does,“ said Belmont, Calif., resident Charlene Martinez, 32, who has two young children. However, she said the bib would work better for her if it were a bit longer, to cover the lap more fully.

In coming months, Kelly's bib will be reviewed in Baby Talk Magazine. Starting in June, Babies R Us will sell DaBib on its Web site. DaBib also is available at www.dabib.com and in some stores.

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