Reference: Fataawa Ahkaam al-Mowlood – Page 14
Explanation of Sunan at-Tirmidhee – Tape no.414
Question: Is it a condition that the ‘tahneek’ only be done with a date?
Response: That is the basis [for this practice], that it be with a date, and if there are no dates – then it is possible [to do without a date]; [because] that which is intended by the [practice of] tahneek is for the first thing to enter the baby’s stomach be something sweet. And it is known that Madeenah is full of dates, and that the food [of the people] are dates, [in fact] their staple diet are dates. And the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
«A house in which there are no dates -then] its people will go hungry» – [Saheeh Muslim]
 The act of softening a date, then rubbing it on the palate of the newborn child.