Paraphilic infantilism, also known as adult baby syndrome, is a rare sexual paraphilia in which individuals get aroused from role playing as babies. This paraphilia is sometimes mistaken with autonepiophilia, which refers to a fetish solely involving wearing diapers, and may not include acting like an infant.2 People with autonepiophilia, called diaper lovers, are sexually aroused by diapers, specifically; whereas adult babies are classified as having paraphilic infantilism and enjoy regressing to an infant-like state. In some people, the two coexist.7 Members of the adult baby/diaper lover (ABDL) community question if being an adult baby is an actual paraphilia. One study found that 54% of the ABDL community stated that their infantilism is not sexual.2 The ABDL community is a varied group of individuals, some of whom do not get overtly sexual pleasure from role playing, but rather feel comforted by diapers or other baby-related items. Very little research has been done on adult babies, and many of the existing research revolves around case studies. A common misconception about the ADBL community is that they are pedophiles. Although individuals in the ADBL community enjoy acting or dressing like infants, they are not interested in sexual contact with actual infants.
Common behaviors for adult babies include wearing diapers and nappies, consuming baby food, drinking milk from a bottle or being wet-nursed, and the overall desire to become a baby.3 Other common behaviors involve sucking on a pacifier, talking baby talk, sleeping with a baby blanket or stuffed animals, and crawling about the floor. Some report having intrusive or uncontrollable thoughts about carrying out these fantasies. Preferences vary from individual to individual. For example, many adult babies enjoy being spanked, while many do not. With consenting partners, adult babies may engage in parent-baby roleplaying which can involve getting bathed, getting diaper changes, and being put to bed in a large crib by a “mommy” or “daddy.”10 Many adult babies greatly enjoy being comforted or nurtured by their “mommy” or “daddy.” In some cases, both partners enjoy wearing diapers in public together.5 In some relationships, adult babies enjoy being punished or spanked by their partners for urinating or defecating in their diapers. In a case study, a 45-year-old man cited defecating in his diaper in a public grocery store as one of his most erotic and enjoyable experiences, stating that he found the public humiliation aspect extremely exciting.5
Many people in the ADBL community feel misunderstood and ridiculed for having interests that diverge from the mainstream. Some members of the community feel that the term “adult baby” has a negative connotation and prefer the term “little”, referencing their submissive role in the ABDL relationship. They are often mistaken for pedophiles even though they do not experience sexual attraction to children. Oftentimes, adult babies are called perverts even though in many cases adult babies revert to an infant-like state purely for stress-relief and not for sexual gratification.
In an unpublished PhD thesis, Dr. Thomas Speaker found in a survey that infantilists are typically male, employed, in their late thirties, well educated, and in stable sexual relationships. However, it is unknown how accurately this survey represented infantilists. In another study of members of the online ABDL community, 93% of the sample was male. Males in the sample reported having had their first interest in ABDL at a mean age of 11, and carrying out their first baby-related behavior at a mean age of 13. Females on average reported later start times with means of 12 and 16, respectively. The most commonly reported activities were urinating, wearing diapers, and using other baby items. In the same study, 87% of the males and 91% of the females stated that their ABDL had not caused any significant problems or distress.4 58% of males in the sample were primarily straight whereas only 34% of females were primarily straight, with 43% describing themselves as bisexual. Although both males and females varied in terms of education, only 66% of males and 39% of females earned more than $25,000 a year. Still, many adult babies lead successful lives. The same study found that 9% of Yahoo groups devoted to “fetishes” dealt with paraphilic infantilism, which was high in relation to other fetishes.4
While the causes of paraphilic infantilism are not fully known, there are many commonalities found in adult babies and many theories as to the origins of the kink. Based on case studies, there is often a great deal of crossover between being an adult baby and having mental disorders. However, most adult babies do not require or seek out treatment as it does not cause harm to themselves or others.
There are hundreds of online fetish communities where individuals can meet people with similar fetishes or interests, share stories, recommend adult baby products or services, and find partners with complementary interests. Two websites with helpful information are adisc.org and BedWettingABDL.com. There are also online resources aimed at educating people about adult babies and dismantling myths about the community, such as understanding.infantilism.org/.
“Diaper lover” parties can be found in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and New York City. At these parties, adult babies mingle in their diapers, drink breastmilk, pencil in coloring books, or play with toys. Some parties have strict rules where you cannot defecate in your diaper, whereas others are less strict.5 An “Adult Baby Camp” occurs in July at a campground in Alberta, Canada where adult babies gather to do outdoorsy activities while wearing their beloved diapers.10
In Liverpool, a couple runs an adult nursery well-stocked with stuffed animals, diapers, baby powder, pacifiers, adult-sized cribs and baby clothes, and high-chairs for meals. For a price of 75 euros per hour, customers can be cared for by the female owner, referred to as “mummy,” alongside the husband who wears a diaper and identifies as an adult baby himself. The couple also offers an overnight 12-hour service for 350 euros, and a 25 euro charge for diaper changes. The couple states that they offer no sexual services but rather try to cultivate a safe, judgement-free place for individuals to live out their dreams of reverting to infanthood. They even offer a service where adult babies can take a “family” trip to Disneyland for 750 euros with their new “mommy” and “daddy.”6
In 2016, the ADBL community saw the first adult baby store open in Illinois, called Tykables. Tykables sells a wide range of adult sized baby products and faced considerable controversy from the local community when it opened, but remains in business. There are also many people that offer “mommy” or “nanny” care services that will organize for a caretaker to come to an adult baby’s home and “babysit”. They often play with toys alongside adult babies, change diapers, and feed them from a bottle. In some cases, they even care for the adult baby full time.9
Parents of Infantilists
Most infantilists start engaging in infantilists behaviors in their teens. Many infantilists at first feel ashamed of being a diaper lover or adult baby, as their interests are outside of the norm. Parents may feel similarly upon finding out that their child is an infantilist or blame themselves for their child’s interests. However, except in the case of child abuse, there is no reason to blame a child’s interest in infantilism on a parent.2 Whether or not a child comes to a parent, or the parent finds out on their own, parents need to approach a conversation with their children about infantilism with an open-mind and a great deal of empathy. It is important that the infantilist does not feel judged. It is also important to discuss infantilism, set boundaries, and come up with a solution together.2 Parents should maintain open communication with their child and remember to ask questions and listen, rather than interrupt.
Infantilists have little control over their thoughts and desires to dress or act like an infant. As long as their behavior is causing no harm to themselves or others, there is no need to punish them or have them seek treatment. If a child is experiencing distress about their desires, it may be helpful for the child to see a therapist. Parents may also seek out help from a therapist if they are struggling to cope with their child’s infantilism.
History of the ADBL Community
San Francisco hosted the first known public event organized for adult babies called “Baby Week” in the early 1990s. Before the 1970s, many adult babies had no idea that there were other adult babies that existed. In the early 70’s, an actor by the name of Kent Perry cultivated a letter-based ADBL community of several hundred by posting advertisements in several newspapers and adult magazines.2 In the mid 70’s, Fetish Times conducted a survey to discover the most popular fetishes of its readers. The editors were “shocked” to discover that the second most popular fetish was infantilism, beat out only by BDSM. The following issue featured adult babies as the centerfold, and brought more awareness to the adult baby community.2
By the late 70s, a few ADBL periodicals were published. An adult baby named Tommy Siegel started the Diaper Pail Fraternity (DPF) in 1980. It was the first successful established organization of ADBL members. He published a newsletter four to seven times a year and created a roster with names, preferences, and contact information of adult babies and diaper lovers.2 The 1980s saw the first academic work done on the ADBL community, with Dr.Speaker’s dissertation published in 1986. In 1987, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) listed infantilism as a part of sexual masochism, describing that sexual masochists “…may have a desire to be treated as a helpless infant and clothed in diapers (‘infantilism’).”1 In 2013, infantilism was removed from the DSM. During the 1990s, daytime TV shows, like Jerry Springer, began featuring adult babies. A decade later there would be several TV channels that featured adult babies including National Geographic and TLC.8 In 1991, the World Wide Web allowed for thousands of ADBL individuals to gather virtually and exchange advice, experiences, and contact information easily via online forums. The internet has allowed people with all kinds of fetishes and common interests to meet people, and feel like less of an outcast.
In 2011, a 30 year old American adult baby named Stanley Thorton was featured on a TV series and faced backlash when it was revealed that he was collecting social security checks for $800 a month. Thorton had a full-time caretaker, was always dressed as an infant, and claimed he could not work because he was an infant. However, the TV series showed Thorton building his own crib, raising questions of why he needed disability checks. This controversy led the government to launch a social security investigation, but Thorton was eventually cleared and continued collecting his checks.8 Unlike Thorton, however, many adult babies lead normal lives, have careers, and only act as an adult baby in private. For example, in an article describing a Liverpool Adult Baby party, a reporter found that many ADBL participants had successful careers in the technology industry.5
Adult babies have varied interests, but all enjoy dressing or acting like an infant. For some, the roleplay is sexual, while for others it is merely comforting. At first, many people at first feel ashamed or embarrassed of their desires, but online resources and parental support can lead adult babies to accept themselves and manage their desires successfully.
- American Psychiatric Association, Task Force on DSM-IV. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Assciation, 2000. Print.
- BitterGrey. “Understanding Infantilism (.org).” Understanding Infantilism. N.p., n.d. Web.
- Evcimen, H., & Gratz, S. (2006). Adult baby syndrome. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35(2),115-116.
- Hawkinson, Kaitlyn, and Brian D. Zamboni. “Adult Baby/Diaper Lovers: An Exploratory Study of an Online Community Sample.” ProQuest. N.p. Jan. 2014. Web.
- Lucas, John. “This Is What a Night at One of London’s Adult Baby Parties Is Actually Like.” Vice. N.p., 26 Mar. 2015. Web.
- MailOnline, Deni Kirkova for. “Bubble Baths, Story Time and Nappy Changes: Inside the Bizarre Nursery Where ADULT Babies Pay £75 an Hour for ‘Mummy’ to Indulge Their Fetish.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 04 Feb. 2015. Web.
- Money, John. “Lovemaps.” Google Books. Irvington Publishers, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2018.
- Roberts, Hannah. “Still Cashing His Checks: ‘Adult Baby’ Who Wears Diapers and Drinks from a Bottle Is Cleared of Fraud… and STILL Getting His Disability Benefits.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 19 Oct. 2011. Web.
- Thorton, Stanley. AB_DL_Nav. N.p., n.d. Web.
- Watson, Joe. “Baby Man.” Phoenix New Times. N.p., 02 Apr. 2016. Web.
Last Updated: 21 February 2018.