The relationships between lactation performance and maternal diet and body protein metabolism were determined at 1, 5, and 12 months postpartum in lactating women who consumed a controlled diet of measured protein and energy. Milk production was measured by the 24-h test weighing procedure. Maternal body protein metabolism was evaluated by nitrogen balance and a primed, constant infusion of [1-13C]leucine and [alpha-15N]lysine. Milk production was associated positively with lysine flux (P less than 0.05, r = 0.59), leucine incorporation into body protein (P less than 0.05, r = 0.58), nitrogen intakes (P less than 0.05, r = 0.56), and energy intakes (P less than 0.01, r = 0.69). When adjusted for postpartum time, significant associations between total nitrogen concentrations in milk and nitrogen balance also were present (P less than 0.05, r = 0.77). These observations document associations among lactation performance, maternal diet, and the metabolic responses of body protein stores in well-nourished women and suggest strategies for the improvement of milk production in settings where nutrient insufficiency and malnutrition prevail.