A mathematical model simulating the newborn human infant's respiratory system was used to study the effects on gas exchange of varying expiratory airflow pattern and end expiratory lung volume (FRC). Inspiratory flow was modelled as a square wave and was constant for all simulations as were inspiratory and expiratory times. Expiratory airflow was also modelled as a square wave and was varied between 21 and 75 ml/sec with FRC held constant at either 30.2 or 21.2 ml/kg for each simulation. At a given FRC, expiratory airflow pattern had only a trivial effect on blood gases in the steady state. Comparing the extreme cases, fast expiration (75 ml/sec) at low FRC (21.1 ml/kg) with slow expiration (21 ml/sec) at high FRC (30.2 ml/kg), arterial PO2 was 3.8 mm Hg higher and arterial PCO2 1.0 mm Hg lower under the latter conditions. However, when short apneas were imposed, blood gases deteriorated less precipitously following the slow expiration at high FRC. We conclude that expiratory airflow retardation and the resultant elevation in end expiratory lung volume do not greatly enhance gas exchange in the healthy full term infant. However, mechanisms which slow expiratory airflow do provide a buffer for gas exchange during the short apneas often observed in infants.