This study compares growth and body composition in preterm infants (< or =1750 g birth weight, < or =34 wk gestation) fed three iso-caloric formulas (80 kcal/100 mL) with different protein concentrations (A = 3.3 g/100 kcal, B = 3.0 g/100 kcal, C = 2.7 g/100 kcal). The study began when full enteral feeding (150 mL/kg/d) was established and lasted until term plus 12 wk corrected age (T + 12 wca). Nutrient intake was closely monitored throughout the study; daily during initial hospital stay and following discharge averaged between each clinic visit. Anthropometry and serum biochemistries were determined weekly during initial stay and at each clinic visit. Body composition was measured after hospital discharge and at T + 12 wca. Seventy-seven infants were recruited. No differences were detected in birth/enrollment characteristics between the groups. Protein intake was closely paralleled by changes in serum urea nitrogen and differed between the groups. Infants in group A were heavier and longer and had greater head circumference at discharge, but this was confounded by a slightly older corrected age in this group. There were no significant anthropometric differences at term or T + 12 wca. No differences were detected in body composition between the groups following discharge or at T + 12 wca. An intake of 3.3 g/100 kcal appears safe and may promote increased growth before initial hospital discharge. After discharge, intakes greater than 2.7 g/100 kcal do not appear to offer clear advantage. Further studies are needed to more precisely define protein requirements in these nutritionally at-risk infants.