For a new mother, there’s nothing quite like scrolling through Instagram. You spend a lot of time with not a lot of fingers free, and cracking open a book often takes too much energy. Enter the social media platform tailor-made for the sleep-deprived, as easy and as addictive as a bag of honey soy chicken chips.
The ranks of mummy influencers on Instagram are legion. One of its queens is Arizona-based neonatal nurse and parent of four Cara Dumaplin. Many of Dumaplin’s 1.4 million followers probably didn’t even know her full name until recently; instead, the name of her account has been passed down from one tired mum to another, via nocturnal text messages and over bottomless cups of coffee, for years now. She is simply @takingcarababies, and as of a few weeks ago, she is in trouble.
To care about the controversy swirling around Cara – a perfect illustration of a bitterly divided America – you first have to understand what she means to millions of Millennial mothers. We speak a language which parents from even a generation before might have a difficult time recognising, of “wake windows”, “sleep cues”, and Dumaplin’s signature acronyms for sleep-issue strategies, SITBACK and CRIES. These are explained in a series of courses on baby sleep, her area of expertise, ranging in price from about $100 for a newborn sleep basics PDF, to upwards of $390 for “a complete 90-minute video course” and supplemental phone calls. (These calls are not with Dumaplin herself but one of her “certified sleep consultants”.)
I never paid for the classes myself, but with two young children I came to depend on Dumaplin’s free, evidence-based advice on her Instagram account. She is a soothing, almost anodyne presence, her blonde bob tousled in the manner of a commercial TV news anchor, her voice hushed as though she’s about to segue into a lullaby at any moment. Her videos are full of motivational mantras for women in a hormonally charged, emotionally vulnerable life stage. One she repeats is “you are exactly the right mama for this baby”.