The use of 13CO2 excretion to measure the oxidation of 13CO2 labeled substrates is increasing as it is both noninvasive and lacks the radiation exposure associated with the use of 14C. No standards are available for 13CO2 recovery in breath from the bicarbonate pool in the neonate. A primed constant infusion of NaH13CO3 over 4 h was used with open circuit indirect calorimetry in 15 appropriate for gestational age newborn infants (gestational age 28-39 wk; postnatal age 2-52 days), on varying amounts of intravenous feeding (37-114 kcal X kg-1 X day-1). Following a bolus of 6.9 mumol X kg-1 of NaH13CO3, a maintenance infusion of 4.6 mumol X kg-1 X h-1 was started. The 13C enrichment in breath rose rapidly to reach a plateau by 90 min with less than 5% variation of the plateau. Recovery of the tracer in breath ranged from 69.6-83.5% and was significantly correlated with 1) energy intake (37-114 kcal X kg-1 X day-1); 2) metabolic rate (34.6-56.1 kcal X kg-1 X day-1); 3) VCO2 (4.86-7.43 ml X kg X -1 X min-1). There was no correlation with the level of protein or fat intake. We provide an equation that can be used to calculate the correction factor when doing constant infusion substrate oxidation studies with a 13C label in neonates.