Katiya Gettys, a licensed massage therapist who teaches baby massage, moved to Maine because of a tube of toothpaste.
Hailing from Ohio, Gettys said she was working in her room on a hot and humid day, and she “wanted to be someplace cooler, less populated, and near water.”
Later, she saw some copy on her tube of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste that started, “Dear Friend.” She told her daughter, “We already have a friend there.”
A year later, she gathered her two dogs and two cats and moved to Maine. Gettys, based in Freeport, describes herself as someone with “an insatiable curiosity,” a curiosity that has brought her to Maine and inspired her to explore different avenues in her career.
Gettys became interested in infant massage in between completing massage school and taking the exams to receive her license from the Ohio Medical Board. During this time, she took an infant massage class at Bowling Green State University, where her youngest daughter was a student. Gettys received her certificate in infant massage in 1985.
“It was just something I tried, but then I fell in love with it,” she said.
After receiving her certification, Gettys started teaching infant massage to parents and offering free educational programs at hospitals. When she moved to Maine and had to re-establish her private practice, she continued to teach infant massage. Gettys hasn’t taught infant massage recently, but when she was asked by the Freeport Community Library if she would, she said, “I thought about it and I thought, you know, it’s such good work. It’s good for moms and kids and dads. And I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”
Gettys is teaching a four-part infant massage class at the Freeport library starting Tuesday, Jan. 26. She said it’s a lot of work to prepare.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist when I teach,” she said. “I don’t like things to be tense, I want them to be calm, but to do that, I need to have everything in place. And know that it can all change because when you’ve got babies, nothing is consistent.”
The massage benefits for babies are far-reaching, according to Gettys, and include improved respiration and circulation, stress reduction, better sleep and relief from gas and colic. Gettys said if parents have an “easy” baby, then it is a fun way to bond and connect with the infant. It might be even more important for infants who were born prematurely, have a disability or are just plain fussy.
Gettys said that back in Ohio, she taught a mother whose baby had Down Syndrome. Gettys used to meet her at the tennis club where the mother worked as a desk clerk. “They had a (day care) for babies there, and we would slip over and work on some things.”
Gettys said learning infant massage helped the mother connect with her infant, and gave the mother the understanding that, “Oh, so you’re different. You’re unique and you’re mine, and I’m yours. You’re perfect as you are.”
Gettys thinks the strengthened emotional bond between infant and parent might be the most crucial benefit of the practice.
“It seems to me that the benefits just go both ways,” she said. “If the parent is giving the baby undivided loving attention, the baby is going to benefit from that. And the parent benefits from the reception of that infant. The baby has a lot to give back.”
In her classes, Gettys demonstrates the techniques for infant massage using a toy baby doll called Chloe?.
“My plastic doll is beautiful,” she said with a laugh, “But it doesn’t compare with getting the energy back from a real infant.”
While Gettys enjoys giving massages to infants, she said she prefers to teach parents because “then the babies can have massages often at home. If I give the baby a massage, that’s great. But if the parents take the class, they have the learning and knowledge to go home and keep giving.”
Gettys said she hopes after taking the class, parents understand that taking anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to give their baby a massage, even if it’s not every day, is “so important and should be a priority.”
A CLOSER LOOK
Infant massage series with Katiya Gettys, certified infant massage
instructor, will be held on Tuesdays, Jan. 26, Feb. 2, 9 and 16, at
11:15 a.m., at the Freeport Community Library. Babies are welcome, ages newborn to pre-crawling (9 months). Sign-ups are required, and space is limited to 15 babies. For more information and to register, call 865-3307 and ask for Holly
Katiya GettysThree-month-old Charlie Joseph enjoys a massage from his mother, Jessica Joseph of Freeport. Charlie and his mother are taking part in an infant massage class at the Freeport Community Library taught by Katiya Gettys.