Taking Cara Babies has been “life-changing” for parents trying to get their newborns and toddlers to sleep. For years, social media users have raved about the Arizona-based parenting influencer — Cara Dumaplin in real life and @TakingCaraBabies on Instagram — and her online courses.
Last week, fans learned that Dumaplin made a steady stream of donations over several years to former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Here’s how the controversy erupted.
Who is Taking Cara Babies?
Cara Dumaplin is a registered neonatal nurse in the West Valley. Since 2013, she has offered online classes, an e-book and phone consultations that cost $39-$319 through her company, Taking Cara Babies.
According to Dumaplin’s Taking Cara Babies website, “My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.”
Dumaplin has garnered 1.3 million Instagram followers with her pastel infographics and videos with tips for handling swaddling, sleeping and spit-up. Between 2018 and 2020, she gained more than 1 million followers, according to social monitoring platform CrowdTangle.
The @TakingCaraBabies Instagram account has grown steadily, with 37,000 to 72,000 new followers each month in the past year. Since the news of Dumaplin’s donations broke, she lost 25,000 followers, including some well-known peers in the parenting influencer community, between Jan. 20 and 24.
How the Taking Cara Babies controversy blew up
On Jan. 19, Jamie Grayson, who tweets as “baby gear guru” @TheBabyGuyNYC, shared screenshots from the Federal Election Commission’s website of Dumaplin’s political contributions on Twitter and Instagram. Though it is unclear who was the first to make this discovery, Grayson’s posts in his Instagram Stories helped the news take off.
By the next day, the report was shared across doula Facebook groups, Instagram circles and Reddit communities. A member of one of these groups who goes by @lyssashu tweeted that the news had “imploded.”
“I’m all for everyone supporting the ideas and politics that speak to them,” Brandi Jordan, owner of the Cradle Company, wrote on her Facebook page. “However, please be upfront about them and don’t use ‘multicultural’ marketing to cover your obvious support of a racist.”
The Cradle Company is a postpartum parenting center in Los Angeles.
That “multicultural marketing” might refer to Dumaplin’s recent series of photos on Instagram showing what appear to be babies of different races wearing onesies that read “future world changer” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Many parents commented how they believe their children will someday change the world, too. Other users saw the post as “performative.” A comment from @birthbossco with nearly 2,000 likes reads, “By financially supporting a politician who puts Black babies at risk, do you think this use of Blackness in your marketing is exploitative?”
In a public post, a member of the Black Lives Matter Las Vegas Facebook group shared Grayson’s FEC screenshots and wrote, “I imagine most here wouldn’t want to have their money go to Trump even if it’s in a round about (sic) way.”
Taking Cara Babies’ statement
According to the FEC document, Dumaplin made 36 contributions ranging from $26.25 to $35 each to Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the political action committee Trump Make America Great Again Committee. Dumaplin’s employer is listed as Taking Cara Babies LLC.
“Between 2016 and 2019, I made a series of donations (totaling $1,078) to the Trump campaign,” Dumaplin said in a statement provided to The Arizona Republic.
“I’m in the business of helping babies get sleep and parents reclaiming the joy of parenthood that’s often lost due to sleep deprivation — which has nothing to do with politics,” Dumaplin’s statement reads. “As with many citizens, there were aspects of the Trump Administration that I agreed with and some that I disagreed with.”
The statement continues: “When your baby is up in the middle of the night and you’re exhausted, that’s the most important thing in your world — not who is in the White House. I will continue to stay focused on my mission of serving all parents by empowering them with the tools they need to help their babies sleep.”
Kisha Gulley, a local influencer and mother of two children, was not aware of Dumaplin prior to the controversy. Gulley does not think Dumaplin’s political views are irrelevant to her audience and clients.
“I think her followers just don’t want to support someone (whose) views don’t align with theirs,” Gulley said in a message to The Republic.
Gulley is Afro-Latina and was born in Panama. She posts about fashion, parenting, mental health and her experiences as a Black woman on her Instagram account.
“For me personally, I don’t promote brands or people whose political views or personal beliefs are dangerous to me and my people.”
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How Cara Dumaplin became the ‘baby sleep expert’
Dumaplin established Taking Cara Babies LLC in 2012. She is a mom to four children and a certified pediatric sleep consultant, according to her website. Her husband, Ludwig Dumaplin, is a pediatric doctor whose mother emigrated from the Philippines to be a nurse in the U.S, according to Dumaplin’s blog.
According to a 2018 interview with Voyage Phoenix magazine, Dumaplin became known as “the baby sleep expert” after finding herself with a “jam-packed” schedule teaching newborn classes in Scottsdale and doing coaching sessions across the Valley.
Rebecca Wilfley, a “21 year veteran in the field” who works in a neonatal intensive care unit in northern California, told The Republic, “(Dumaplin) was highly regarded in the NICU nurse community.”
“I absolutely disagree with what is happening. I don’t understand how if you are looking for help with your baby why you would care what the (individual’s) personal politics are,” Wilfley wrote to The Republic. “If your goal is to get help for your new family, I would think politics wouldn’t have a place in your decision making.”
‘Thank you for standing by me’
After her Trump contributions were made public, Dumaplin took a break from Instagram posting between Jan. 19 and 25. She also disabled a feature that allows other Instagram users to tag her in their content.
She resumed sharing Instagram Stories — which disappear after 24 hours — during that period.
On Jan. 22, Dumaplin thanked her followers for “standing by me.”
“I want you to know as long as I still have one follower left and breath in my lungs, I will still keep showing up here. I need you to know this also: It doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, who you love, the color of your skin, who you voted for or where you were born,” Dumaplin said. “You are welcome here, you are loved and you deserve to thrive in parenthood.”
She went on to share “three practical tips to help your baby sleep better,” including monitoring daytime sleep and following a consistent bedtime routine.
She ended the series of videos by sharing that she would again allow users to tag her account in their posts.
“If you need to use my name to get all the hate out of your heart so that you can love other people, do it,” she said. “But if you want to use my name to spread love, I’m here for that, too. I want you to know if you want to be here, I want you here.”
“I truly believe if we sat down eye to eye, there’s so much more that unites us than divides us.”
Reaction to Taking Cara Babies statement
Controversies such as the one Dumaplin experienced are often short-lived. After losing 25,000 followers, @TakingCaraBabies is back to gaining a couple thousand new followers per day.
“Cara’s response was unbelievable,” one supporter commented in a Reddit forum for those with conservative viewpoints.
But not everyone is coming back.
“Her response made me unfollow her,” a Reddit user posted in a forum for new parents.
“I don’t want her to think that my follow means I support her so I made the decision to unfollow,” the post reads. “Just thought some of you would want to know she’s finally addressed what’s going on and her response was abysmal.”
More than 1,000 others “upvoted” the post to show their agreement.
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