Here are some things in which books and corrigenda have skipped me. While these points below are meant for the dads, all these sunnah can also be performed by the mother as well.
Note: There are no hadiths included in this post. For more details on the relevant adillah and arguments, click on the corresponding links provided below.
1. Always pack a date (the fruit) in your wife’s the maternity bag. Tahnik /تحنيك (putting something sweet in the baby’s mouth) should be one of the first things done right after birth (see here, and also Ibn Qayyim’s تحفة المودود بأحكام المولود pg 11). Amidst all the rush and disorganization of receiving a newborn, bringing a single date at the last minute is easily forgettable. So just keep it packed early in that bag.
2. Once the wife is about to go into labour, remember to place that date in your pocket. And keep your hands clean.
3. It will be best if you can join her and the doctors in the operating theater/delivery room. If not, just make a note to the nurse that you are a Muslim and have to perform some post-natal rites immediately after birth. They will oblige and call you once the baby is cleaned up.
4. Adhan and iqamah: Once you receive your newborn, perform the adhan on the right ear, and the iqamah on the left. Remember that you don’t have to shout as you are performing it on a newborn baby, not a congregation in a mosque. Up to you to whisper or perform it in your normal voice.
5. Tahnik: Once you are done, take out that date and bite a small chunk off it. Chew it well into a paste and use your clean finger to remove the paste from your mouth. Place that paste inside your newborn’s mouth. With your finger, move that paste around so it touches the baby’s tongue, roof of mouth, inside of cheeks, etc. Avoid being over-enthused and push it too deep as you do not want to induve vomit on the poor baby.
What to use for tahnik in order of most preferred: a) dry date; b) fresh date; c) anything sweet, such as
honey fruit nectar (?) etc. Do note that honey is not recommended for babies under 1 year old because it may cause serious illness.
For those interested in the health benefits of performing tahnik, read more here.
6. There, you are done for the day. The next rite will be on the 7th day. In the meantime, enjoy 6 nights of sleep deprivation.
7. On the 7th day: Shave the head as clean as you can. Weigh the shaved hair and donate the weight in silver. For example, if there are 5gms of hair, you should donate 5gms of silver or its monetary equivalent. While you can always convert it to gold to donate more, it seems to me the hadiths indicated silver.
Sidenote: 7th day should correspond to the Islamic lunar calendar; a new day starts every sunset, not sunrise.
So if your baby is born on 1 January at 3pm, the seventh day will start at the sunset of 6th January, and ends at sunset of 7th January.
However if he is born on 1 January at 9pm, the seventh day will be from the sunset of the 7th until the sunset on the 8th.
Now, how do you go about shaving a baby’s fragile head clean?
a) First, make sure the baby’s well-rested, like after he’s sleeping or just after he had a full serving of milk.
b) Keep things cool and dry to minimize baby’s agitation. Do it in a cool, well-lit area. Some would apply baby powder on his head.
c) Use an electric shaver, the type the barbers use. Preferably, start on the right side, before moving on to the left. Shave as close as you can to skip the next step.
d) Only for the pros: If you want to be thorough, you can follow up with a proper shave. To do so, apply mild shaving cream and shave as you would. Make sure the skin is pulled taut, because a single cut will hurt you more than it hurts him. I’m sure of that.
8. Aqiqah (slaughtering sheep on behalf of the baby) should also be done on the 7th day when possible. Unfortunately we in the city-states do not have that option, so it is usually postponed to Eid al-Adha, when there will be sheeps available.
a) How many sheeps? One if its a girl, two if its a boy. It is preferable to cook the meat, invite guests over, and serve it to them. You may include friends, relatives, neighbours, Muslims or otherwise. Just do not profit from the meat (e.g by selling it).
b) You should also give the meat to the poor.
c) One forgotten sunnah is to give a part of the (preferably cooked) meat to the person delivering the baby. This could be the midwife, obstetrician, gynae, the team of nurse, etc. Think of it as as an awesome thank-you card in the form of food. Everyone loves food. And it shows how wonderful our religion that appreciate those (i.e. healthcare workers) who helped us during this important time.
10. Circumcision: Most parents seem to recommend doing it very early (as in before a month or two), as the baby moves very little and therefore heals faster. Circumcision is prescribed for boys. Opinions of circumcisions for girls generally falls on sunnah or wajib, but only when it doesn’t lead to genital mutilation. And only have reputable doctors do it, please. (Read more here: Sheikh Qaradawi’s view, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, ختان الإناث.. دعوة للتفكر ,ختان الإناث )