I tried seven viral parenting tricks

As an (exhausted) mom of a toddler and a newborn, I'm always looking for things to make my life easier. And that's lucky, because Instagram and TikTok are hell-bent on presenting me with “parenting hacks” to try: quick, seemingly simple solutions that parents on social media claim will change my life. But will they? Do these hacks really work? I've tried a few to find out.

The foot hack

I admit, I scoffed when I saw a parent on my Instagram suggesting that I hold my baby's feet in my hands “to ground them.” (Do babies really need grounding? Certainly not.) But when I tried it on my newborn, it worked…

Maybe a coincidence, but in the middle of the witching hour of the evening when he was screaming the house down, I was happy to accept the coincidence. As with everything to do with babies, I imagine sometimes it works and sometimes, for some inexplicable reason, it doesn't.

Still, it's useful to have in your arsenal in case you need it. After all, I'm sure we've all done a little crazy things to stop our babies from crying. (The other day I caught my partner casually lunging into the kitchen with him “because he likes that.”) Maybe next I'll try doing deep, meditative breathing exercises with my toddler.

VERDICT: It worked!

The diaper rash trick

I've known for a long time that breast milk has magical powers. Not only does it help my babies grow and nourish themselves, but it's also a cure-all for everything from baby acne and dry skin to runny eyes and cuts and scrapes.

The parenting trick here is to mix pumped breast milk with Vaseline and use it as a diaper rash cream. Of course it works. Almost immediately, in fact, although I'm not sure how much work the Vaseline does in the mix: I suspect a dab of breast milk alone on the affected area would have had the same effect and I wouldn't have had to try and awkwardly mix the two in a tiny container.

VERDICT: Thumbs up – I'll put away my Sudocrem.

The cable tie hack

Chloe's son delighted with the results of the cable tie hack

I was excited to try this out and I was not disappointed. The trick is to tie a tall, narrow bottle of bubbles – like the ones you find in most supermarkets – to a chair leg with a cable tie so your toddler can get to the mixture with the bubble wand without it all tipping over on the floor and the fun being over. Not only was my toddler fascinated by how the bubbles were attached to the chair, but he loved being able to use the bubble wand himself. And I enjoyed having my hands free. We tried this inside as it was raining, but I'm already looking at possible places to tie the cables in our garden.

VERDICT: Definitely a winner.

The “No Thanks” Plate Hack

I was thrilled when I discovered this, just as my toddler was entering a phase of being picky about food. He used to gobble up fresh tomatoes, but suddenly he was turning up his nose and refusing to eat them.

This is where the “no thank you” plate comes in: a plate or bowl next to your child on the table into which they can place any food they don't want to eat. The theory behind this is that this not only gives them the appearance of being in control of what they want to eat, but also encourages them to interact with the food by picking it up and placing it on the plate.

It also keeps the food visible and, most importantly, accessible to them in case they change their mind and want to eat it. This is what my toddler often does. And even if he doesn't, we still see a lot fewer tantrums at teatime because I think he feels a sense of empowerment.

VERDICT: Yes, please from me.

The Happy Song Hack

Musician Imogen Heap was commissioned by the C&G Baby Club to write a song to make babies happier. The finished tune was tested on 56 babies and was found to lift their spirits. The upbeat song contains lots of plosives – which babies seem to respond better to – as well as onomatopoeic words such as “choo choo” and “ring ring”.

My four-week-old looked puzzled when I put him down to stop him whining in the stroller, but he stopped. My toddler, who loves to dance to anything happy (current favorites are Harry Styles and Elton John), jumped around the room in joy for a moment when I played this before requesting Styles' “As It Was” again.

As for me, well, after the fourth or fifth play of the insanely upbeat Happy Song, I started to get a little less upbeat. I guess it works. But at what cost?

VERDICT: I won't play this again

The West Hack

This is an old trick. The trick, as far as I know, is to roll your baby's vest up to his shoulders, put his arms in, and then button him into a sort of straitjacket, albeit a straitjacket with teddy bear pictures on it. In theory, this is supposed to stop your baby putting his hands in dirty diapers. Does it work? Well, it does. But it's an extra effort and solves a problem I don't seem to have with my – relatively docile – newborn. (Ask me again when he's a bit more lively…)

This looked like a great idea to me on TikTok, but when I found myself desperate to change a diaper ASAP in the middle of the night so I could get back to sleep, I skipped it and instead resorted to my tried and tested method: do everything as quickly as possible and hope for the best.

VERDICT: An additional effort

The “baby straitjacket” worked well, but was an extra effort, says Chloe

The Baby Squat Hack

This trick involves holding your newborn low, close to your belly, and squatting with him. He should feel like he's back in the womb. This definitely calmed my newborn: he started crying after squatting and then was completely calm.

While it was a good excuse to do some gentle exercise after giving birth, it didn't feel like a truly sustainable option. I couldn't, for example, make toast while squatting. Or, say, write this article. So the jury is still out on how helpful this hack is in everyday life.

VERDICT: A good try if you have exhausted all other options