There's a sucker born every minute in Denmark

Margaret Dolley finds the young Danes' addiction to dummies far from soothing

It's about three inches long, it's made of rubber, it comes in primary colours - and it's highly embarrassing. It belongs to my strapping young daughter of three and a half, and it's her dummy.

As we gear up to hit middle England for a family wedding, I shall be bribing, wheedling and maybe using force to keep our guilty little secret out of the picture on the big day. I have become almost resigned to her sucking furiously for hours as she draws, digs, climbs or leafs through books. After all, plenty of our neighbours back in Copenhagen do the same.

When my older children were small, in London, I would have shuddered with revulsion at the thought of a dummy. But when Dorothy started kindergarten eight months ago she was instantly smitten. She sat astride toddling Danes and yanked the dummies from their mouths. She shovelled them into the supermarket trolley as fast as we could shovel them out, until one night we capitulated.

Late starters are often the worst, and now we don't just have a dummy problem. We have pocketfuls - plus one in the car, one in my briefcase and a brand-new three-pack in reserve on a top shelf.

Danes feel the need to suck goes way beyond the simple need for nourishment. Breast-feeding is more widespread than in England, but new-born babies are still regularly offered the dummy for comfort in hospital. The whole nation seems never to have quite outgrown its special, cosy relationship with the dummy: it's a minor cult. The comedian Bubber sits in a bathtub on television, with viewers' choicest dummies piled around him. It's the most prized shape of candy to bring home from the funfair. Sparkly glass dummies were last year's young fashion craze. A special gold one is even sold for charity.

So why do I persist in loathing it? First, I feel it is infantile. Danes believe childhood should be taken very slowly, but on a recent trip to South-east Asia I could see people were appalled by such a large child with a dummy. Playfully, but oh so very firmly, they kept removing it from her mouth. Our English dentist was horrified too, yet I don't see many little Danes with teeth askew or portcullis braces.

But most of all, I don't like the way Dorothy uses it to cope with distress. If she's angry, if she trips or is frustrated, her arms whirl like little windmills until her desperate, pursed mouth finds satisfaction.

Grow too used to that artificial sucking feeling, and can't it become a substitute for addressing your feelings or taking action? Denmark has a big alcohol problem, and it is remarkable how many adults choose to drink their beer straight from the bottle. They also have one of Europe's highest death rates from diseases linked to cigarettes. But then again, they are very peaceful.

Having to fight for her dummy has made Dorothy a hard case. Her friends are starting to set theirs aside, or making contracts with the leading toyshop chain to trade them in for a coveted toy (parents pay, of course).

Stuff that, says Dorothy, I prefer my dummy. It's already been suggested we try the pilgrimage. The small island of Thuroe is home to Denmark's largest dummy tree, adorned with hundreds of offerings hung ceremoniously by small, brave children. They sometimes revisit several times, to make quite sure that their dummy is still there - and that they can do without it.

I am aware that I have yet to see a schoolgirl still using a dummy. I just fear that my iron-willed daughter could be the first.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice