In a prospective study of 124 infants enrolled as newborns, we assessed the relation between initial lung function and the subsequent incidence of lower respiratory tract illness during the first year of life. The risk of having a wheezing illness was 3.7 times higher (95 percent confidence interval, 0.9 to 15.5; P = 0.06) among infants whose values for total respiratory conductance (the reciprocal of the resistance to air flow of the entire respiratory system) were in the lowest third, as compared with infants with values in the upper two thirds of the range of values for the group. Boys with initial values in the lowest third for an indirect index of airway conductance had a 10-fold increase (95 percent confidence interval, 2.2 to 44.2; P = 0.001) in the risk of having a wheezing illness. A 16-fold increase (95 percent confidence interval, 1.7 to 147.1; P = 0.002) in the risk of having a wheezing illness was found among girls whose initial values for lung volume at the end of tidal expiration were in the lowest third. We conclude that diminished lung function is a predisposing factor for the development of a first wheezing illness in infants.