BELLE VERNON, Pa. (AP) _ Modern parenting has plenty of elements intended to make life easier, from paper towels to disposable diapers and bottles.

But when Melanie Patterson's son Cody was born five years ago, she thought something was missing: a hardy disposable bib, so she didn't have to constantly wash cloth ones. When she couldn't find any, she created one.

``All I wanted was a throwaway bib that was clean, sanitary and at my fingertips,'' said Patterson, Mrs. United States 1993 and a former kindergarten teacher who lives in Belle Vernon, about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

PIBS, her non-woven paper bibs with slick, leak-proof backing, come in rolls of 15, much like paper towels, though the bibs are about two inches wider. She patented PIBS in June 1996 and initially sold them over the Internet from her home.

This year, boxes of the bibs landed on shelves at Giant Eagle stores in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas at $9.99 for a box of 15.

So Cute disposable baby bibs, a year-old Toronto-based company sells a similar product over the Internet and by word of mouth.

The So Cute bib comes in bundles of 10 rather than on a roll, and is made of woven paper like a thick paper towel. The bundles sell for $2.97 a pack for babies, and $3.97 a pack for toddlers.

``People who have used it love it, especially for toddlers in restaurants,'' said So Cute spokeswoman Marlene Valana. ``But it's very hard to get a new product in stores. There's a lot of hesitation about it. There's no big guys behind us'' like Johnson & Johnson or Procter & Gamble.

Patterson faced similar roadblocks when paper manufacturers and distributors were unwilling to take on her product.

``I didn't have the data, I didn't have a proven product,'' Patterson said. ``These big companies aren't going to fool around with mom's idea. They just don't have the time to take ideas from people off the street.''

Undaunted, Patterson found paper-good suppliers at a paper exposition in Baltimore who gave her sample materials to try. Berkeley Medical Resources in Uniontown used those materials to make the bibs.

She said 10,000 rolls of bibs wrapped in shrink paper were produced last May _ and they fell flat. They looked like small rolls of paper towels, and tore easily.

She also spent a day at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin near Pittsburgh passing out the bibs to people who didn't understand what they were. ``They thought it was a baby wipe or a napkin. They were white with nothing printed on them,'' she said.

Patterson put the rolls of bibs in a box with instructions on how to use them and each bib needed the product logo ``PIBS'' printed on it.

``We had to educate the consumer about a disposable bib,'' she said.

Laura Karet, vice president of marketing for Giant Eagle, said the chain has carried PIBS since mid-May but it is too early to tell whether they are selling well.

``We like to support local entrepreneurs,'' Karet said. ``We always like to look at new ideas and this was a particularly good one.''

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On the Net: PIBS: http://www.pibsonaroll.com.

So Cute Disposable Baby Bibs: http://www.members.home.net/8282.socute.html

Giant Eagle: http://www.gianteagle.com