Parenting

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The Specific Betrayal Of Trusting A Quietly-MAGA Sleep Consultant

Cara Dumaplin’s Trump donations shocked the internet. But why were we surprised?

Since Jan. 19, every mom I know has been talking about one thing: the revelation that Cara Dumaplin (better known as Taking Cara Babies) is a Trump donor. Non-parents have been, shall we say, less interested. One childless friend texted me, “Who is this Cara Babies?”

That’s because Dumaplin is a household name among the current generation of sleep-deprived new parents. At some point, these unfortunate souls will find themselves frantically searching the internet for tips to help their baby sleep. When they do, they’ll inevitably encounter the Taking Cara Babies Instagram account (with 1.3 million followers), Dumaplin’s website offering online courses (which range from $39 to $319) and $75 phone consultations, and parenting forums where countless posters refer to her like an old friend.

A mother of four and neonatal nurse who, as she puts it, “birthed” her business in 2013, Dumaplin positions herself as both an expert and a fellow parent who has been where you are: exhausted, miserable, and convinced you will never sleep through the night again. On her website, she explains that her mission is to “educate, empower, and encourage parents all over the world.”

So it’s not surprising that many parents were shocked to learn that she stood behind a man who separated families at the border and put children in cages. And Dumaplin didn’t just vote for Trump — she donated to his campaign 36 times, making 18 donations in 2019 alone. Her husband, Ludwig, a pediatrician whom she mentions often, also made 28 donations to Trump.

OH MY GOD, TAKING CARA BABIES IS MAGA,” tweeted author Bess Kalb, summarizing the general reaction.

Many parents felt not just shock but betrayal — the revelation was personal. As Evie Ebert, a writer and childhood sleep coach, put it: “The sleep professional, in the form of their words and ideology, is welcomed into the most private spaces of the home. It's destabilizing then to learn that someone you admire, whose teachings you might feel indebted to, supported the campaign of a man whose administration put many families in danger." Furious parents began requesting refunds. The Taking Cara Babies Facebook Page, flooded with angry comments, was swiftly deleted.

But is it really surprising that an affluent white woman voted for Trump? In Arizona, where Dumaplin lives, 52% of white women voted for him in November. So why was it so easy for us to ignore the possibility that she was a Trump supporter until now?

Dumaplin has never posted about politics, or expressed any kind of political affiliation. In a very brief statement emailed to Buzzfeed reporter Stephanie McNeal, Dumaplin wrote in part, “As with many citizens, there were aspects of the Trump Administration I agreed with and some that I disagreed with. I will continue to serve all parents by empowering them with the tools they need to help their babies sleep.”

But Dumaplin, with her open smile and pastel-toned Instagram posts, is not just offering to help parents out of the goodness of her heart. She is trying to get them to buy her products.

Long before she was outed as a Trump donor, critics had pointed out that her courses are a repackaging of established sleep science. On forums like BabyCenter and the sleeptrain subreddit, parents regularly ask whether her courses are worth the cost, and many reply to say they feel duped after paying hundreds of dollars for common-sense advice. “It’s 100% her talking through Ferber and Harvey Karp,” said mother Bronwyn Livingston, “But in a flowery, ‘you-got-this-mama’ way.” The flowery part is key. People aren’t buying Dumaplin’s sleep science; they’re buying into her warmth, her compassion, her offer of community.

Sleep-deprived parents who stumble across Dumaplin are desperate — for rest, for hope, for reassurance that their six-month-old baby will not grow up to be a serial killer because they let him cry in his crib. Taking Cara Babies offers women like Emily, a mother of newborn twins a lifeline when they need it most. “A mom who is in search of a sleep trainer is maybe not in a place to do a deep dive on someone’s politics. You’re just looking for help and you’re like, OK, this nice lady from Arizona is going to save me,” she says. It’s easy to assume good intentions on the part of the expert who is saving you from despair.

Dumaplin, whose business seeks to appeal to all mothers, must have known she had nothing to gain from alienating half of the parents in America by revealing her allegiance to a deeply divisive president whom half the country reviles for his cruelty. Whatever her personal values are, and how they align with those of Donald Trump, it was more profitable to conceal them under the hazy promise of a welcoming, inclusive community.

Now she has unexpectedly run into one of new realities of the marketplace, which is that if you create a community of customers, those customers may very well expect you to reflect their values. Dumaplin’s Trump support stings because it revealed that the loving, generous tone she struck may have been no more than a sales tactic. The people who trusted her advice, who believed that she cared deeply for the rights and safety of all mothers and children, were never a part of her community at all. In the end, they were just her customers.

Dumaplin maintains her politics have nothing to do with her work. "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," she wrote in an emailed statement to Romper. "For me, helping babies sleep is more important than debating politics.” (On Instagram, where she posted and hastily deleted a story addressing the controversy, she has reportedly been blocking followers who message her to express their disappointment.)

But the idea that politics is a matter of debate, rather than a real force that shapes peoples’ lives — affecting whether they can access health care, have an abortion, or stay in the only country they’ve ever known — is a position of enormous privilege, one that strikes many former customers as cruel.

The worst thing that could happen to Dumaplin as a result of her political beliefs is happening now: Some families don’t want to give her their money anymore. How deeply this controversy will affect her business is unclear. Her follower count remains at 1.3 million. With a surge of Conservative support in the wake of criticism, she may come out on top. But her politics will never be a secret again.