Chapter 4: Feeding the Newborn

1. Tahneek (introducing chewed dates to the baby's palate) is a sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ

Tahneek is the act of softening or chewing a piece of dates, then taking this softened dates and rubbing it on the baby’s palate (known in Arabic as حنك).

Asmaa bint Abi Bakr رضي الله عنها described the way the Prophet performed tahneek:

فولدت بقباء ثم اتيت به رسول الله ﷺ فوضعته في هجرهو ثم دعا بتمرة فمضغها ثم تفل في فيه  فكان اول شيء دخل جوفه ريق رسول الله ﷺ ثم حنكه بالتمرةو ثم دعا له فبرك عليه

And I gave birth in Qubaa. Then I brought him (her son, Abdullah bin Zubair  رضي الله عنه)to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and placed him on his lap. Then he asked for a date, chewed it, and put his saliva in the mouth of the child. So the first thing to enter its stomach was the saliva of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Then he rubbed it on its palate and supplicated to Allah سبحانه و تعالى to bless him. [Bukhaari 5649]

  • It is the sunnah for this to be the first thing to enter the newborn’s stomach after birth. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ would take their babies to him immediately after birth so that he could perform the tahneek for the child.

Anas bin Maalik رضي الله عنه  said that when his mother, Um Sulaim رضي الله عنه, gave birth to his brother at night, she said to him:

يا انس انظر هذا الغلام فلا يصيبن شيئا حتى تعدو به الى النبي يحنكهو فعدوت به

Oh Anas, watch this boy and do not give him anything (to eat or drink) until you take him to the Prophet ﷺ to do tahneek for him. So [Anas is speaking now], I took him to the Prophet ﷺ (in the morning). [Bukhari 5824]

  • The sunnah is to perform the tahneek with dates. The hadiths that tell us of this practice mention the Prophet ﷺ asking for and using dates to do it. In addtion to the hadith of Asmaa (previously), another companion narrated a similar experience:

Abu Musa al-Ash’ari رضي الله عنه  said:

ولد لي غلام فاتيت به للنبي فسماه ابراهيم فحنكه بالتمر و دعا له بالبركة ودفعه الي

A boy was born to me, so I took him to the Prophet, and he named him Ibraaheem, and did tahneek for him with dates, and supplicated for him to be blessed, and gave him back to me. [Bukhari & Muslim]

  • In regards to going to someone specific because of his/her saliva, thinking that it is special, etc, this is wrong and should be avoided. Only the Prophet’s ﷺ saliva was Therefore tahneek should be done with dates, not saliva, and the mother or father can do it; it does not have to be anyone specific or special.
2. Breastfeeding is the best food for a baby and the child should not be deprived of the mother's milk without a proper reason (inability to produce, medical issues, etc).
  • Breastfeeding was ordained by Allah سبحانه و تعالى , in Soorah Baqarah, Ayah 233:

وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ

And mothers breastfeed their children for two complete years.

  • The period/ time length of breastfeeding is 2 complete years. This is emphasized in the ayah above with the addition of the word ‘complete.’

In other ayahs in the Quran, Allah سبحانه و تعالى also mentions 2 years. In Surah Luqman, Ayah 14, He says:

وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ

and his weaning is in 2 years.

  • Breastfeeding is the right of the child, especially wihtin that period when it is the baby’s sole nourishment (before the appearance of teeth).

The scholars agree that it is obligatory so long as the child needs it (is within that age range of two years).

  • It is a joint responsibility upon both the mother and the father. For the mother, she breastfeeds the child with her body as mentioned in the ayah previously. As for the father, it is his duty to provide for the mother (food, clothing, etc) while she is breastfeeding their child.

To emphasize even more this responsibility, even in the case of a divorced couple, the father of the baby must still provide for the mother of his child while she is breastfeeding the baby.

Allah سبحانه و تعالى says in Soorah Baqarah, Ayah 233:

وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

And upon the one who a baby is born to [the father] is her[the mother’s] provision and her clothing, to what is acceptable.

  • If both the father and the mother agree to weaning the child before 2 years for some reason, then they can do so. But one parent cannot force the other parent to agree to this. Allah سبحانه و تعالى says regarding this is Soorah Baqarah, Ayah 233:

فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالًا عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا

And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent, then there is no blame upon them.

  • Allah سبحانه و تعالى, with His Infinite Wisdom, told us that breastfeeding was the best thing for the child. It is only now, more than 1400 years later, that science has been able to reveal the many benefits of this natural gift.
    • Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend
      • exclusively breastfeeding until around 6 months
      • breastfeeding while also introducing solid foods until the child reaches at least 2 years.
    • Breastmilk has the perfect nutrition for the baby; it changes with their age to meet their changing needs.
    • It provides natural immunity to the child. Also, its composition changes when a baby is sick to meet those needs.
    • Breastfeeding provides irreplaceable psychological benefits to the baby, such as in the attachment bond it fosters.
    • It is always ready for consumption, at the right temperature with no concerns about sterilization.
  • The act of breastfeeding a child has a great status and virtue in Islam.
    • The wet nurse (one who breastfeeds a baby that is not hers) is placed in a position similar to that of the child’s blood family. There is a great honour and bond placed between the foster family (through breastfeeding) and the child.
    • Allah سبحانه و تعالى mentions breastfeeding as amongst the reasons why we should be respectful and grateful to our parents, in Soorah Luqman, Ayah 14:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِير

And we have enjoined upon human beings [to care] for his parents. His mother carried him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents. To Me is the [final] destination.

3. Breastfeeding a child creates the bonds of a mahram relationship.
  • Aa’isha, ibn Abbaas, and Ali رضي الله عنهم said that the Prophet ﷺ said:

ان الله حرم من الرضاع ما حرم من الولادة (النسب)

Indeed Allah has prohibited (marriage) due to breastfeeding like what He prohibited due to birth (blood relations). [Bukhaari & Muslim]

  • Two conditions must be met for a mahram relationship to be established through breastfeeding.
    • The first condition is that it must be 5 separate, definite feedings.
      • The scholars explained a definite feeding to be where the baby latches on and then removes its mouth from the breast of its own desire, meaning not due to a distraction, the mother, etc.
      • Aa’isha رضي الله عنها said: “Among the things that were revealed in the Quran was that 10 definite breastfeedings make a person a mahram. Then that was abrogated and replaced with 5 definite breastfeedings.” [Muslim 1452]
    • The second condition is that the breastfeedings must occur before the child completes 2 years.
      • From the ayahs (mentioned previously), we know that the period of a child’s breastfeeding needs is 2 years.
      • Abdullah ibn Zubair رضي الله عنه said that the Prophet ﷺsaid:

        لا رضاع الا ما فتق الامعاء

        There is no breastfeeding except that which fills the stomach.

         [Ibn Majah 1946]

      • Aa’isha رضي الله عنها said that the Prophet ﷺ said:

        فانما الرضاعة من المجاعة

        For indeed, breastfeeding is only through hunger.

         [Bukhari 5102, Muslim 1455]