ST. LOUIS - It wasn't long after Joel Pekay's triplets came home from the hospital that he realized the average retail store's baby section didn't understand the needs of multiple-birth parents.
He and his wife shared caretaking duties with grandparents and a nursing staff, but no store offered the family a product to help them organize which baby's needs had been taken care of, and at what time.
By the time the triplets were 3 weeks old, Mrs. Pekay had developed Baby Log, a spiral-bound checklist.
"When there are people helping out, you don't always know what's going on. You're at work, you come home, and you don't know (things like) how much did Alec eat, how much did Shayna eat, did they eat enough, do they need a Tylenol," Mrs. Pekay said.
Baby Log became more than an aid for the Pekays - Joel Pekay decided to sell it to other parents, via the Internet and his personal Web site, www.tripletpress.com.
Twins, triplets, quadruplets and even larger multiple births present huge challenges to parents who are trying to take care of several children at once, because products designed for single babies often are of little help. But some of these parents find an opportunity as they try to cope - like Ms. Pekay, they end up inventing products to help make child care easier, and that other multiple-birth parents are eager to buy.
More Than One Inc., started in 1995 by Angela Pacey and her husband, offers nearly 300 products for parents of twins, triplets and more.
Mrs. Pacey said the business has grown exponentially, and now earns more than $1 million in sales each year through its catalog and Web site, www.morethanone.com.
The Web site offers products such as strollers for triplets, quads or quints; toddler tables that can seat up to eight children and dividers that allow more than one baby to sleep in a single crib.
The company recently expanded into manufacturing by purchasing a company that made the Anna Nursing Pillow, which allows mothers to breast-feed two babies at once. That product was invented by a mother of twins. Many of the products More Than One offers for parents of multiples were not invented by parents, but rather relatives watching the parents struggle to keep up.
"We're too busy just trying to get through the day," said Mrs. Pacey, who also is a mother of twins. "It's often a family member that comes up with something."
Many of these parent/inventors were showing their products recently at a convention in St. Louis for families of triplets, quadruplets and more.
As a stroller with four seats maneuvered effortlessly through the crowd at a recent convention for families of triplets, quadruplets and more, Kevin McNicholas remembered what it was like to be the father of newborn quads 17 years ago - without any of the new gadgets. Trying to restrain four infants long enough to get food in their bellies, for example, required strategy.
"We had these things called Sassy seats - they'd clip onto the table. But you had to be careful. You couldn't put them all on one side or the table would tip," Mr. McNicholas said.
The market for multiple-baby products isn't as large as the general baby-goods market, but there still is a demand for the unique products.
In 2002, the most recent year for which data were available, 125,134 babies born in the United States were twins, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
In the same year, there were 7,401 babies born as part of a set of triplets, quadruplets, or other multiple births. That's a slight decrease from 1998, when the number of higher-order multiple births peaked at 7,625, fueled in part by the popularity of fertility drugs and treatments.