This study was undertaken to determine the factors that are important in determining the erythropoietin response in low-birth-weight infants during the period of so-called anemia of prematurity. In the first weeks of life oxygen consumption in a group of 21 infants gradually increased as hemoglobin level fell. The magnitude of the erythropoietin response inversely varied with the central venous oxygen tension (P-vO2) (r = -0.55, P less than 0.001). When the P-vO2 declined to less than 30 torr, erythropoietin values were uniformly increased above the "normal" range (defined as the values associated with P-vO2 greater than 38 torr). Erythropoietin values varied inversely with hemoglobin but in general did not exceed the values observed for normal adult men. The erythropoietin values in the infants were remarkably lower at any given hemoglobin level when compared with those of older children with anemia resulting from bone marrow failure. In general, elevations of erythropoietin were seen when the hemoglobin concentration declined to less than 10.0 gm/dl. Change in heart rate did not appear to be a reliable indicator of the presence of anemia; rather, it correlated best with oxygen consumption.