This study was designed to measure plasma gastrin and somatostatin levels in infants and to simultaneously investigate the infants' metabolic status as reflected by the body weight as well as by the blood levels of FFA, D-beta-hydroxybutyrate and glucose. Healthy infants (n = 94) who were born at term were studied cross-sectionally during their first four days of life. We found that the gastrin concentration (mean +/- SD) on the first day of life was 118 +/- 37 pmol/l. Subsequently the concentration decreased and reached its lowest value on the third day; 94 +/- 27 pmol/l (P less than 0.05). On the fourth day the mean concentration increased to the same level as on the first day. There was a significant (P less than 0.01) increase in somatostatin concentrations from 18 +/- 6 pmol/l on the first day to 26 +/- 7 pmol/l on the fourth day and the concentrations were highly related (P less than 0.0001) to postnatal age. We conclude that the decrease in gastrin concentration is probably related to the low volume of breast milk ingested during the first days after delivery, and therefore to the low secretory activity of the gastrin-producing cells. The infants' catabolic condition during that time was evidenced by the reduction in body weight, the decrease in plasma glucose level and the increase in FFA and D-beta-hydroxybutyrate levels. The gastrin increase found on the fourth day reflects most likely, the change in breast milk availability which occurs with the establishment of lactation. The mechanisms controlling the release of somatostatin remains to be established.