The pineal hormone melatonin exhibits a circadian rhythm in body fluids. No data are available on melatonin in human milk. The present study was undertaken to determine whether melatonin is detectable in human milk and, if so, whether it exhibits a daily rhythm. Blood and milk were sampled between 1400-1700 h and again between 0200-0400 h from 10 mothers 3-4 days after delivery. Melatonin in both fluids was beyond the limit of detection during the day, whereas during the night, its concentration was 280 +/- 34 pmol/L in serum and 99 +/- 26 pmol/L in milk. Six mothers collected milk after each feeding throughout 1 24-h period within 3 months after delivery. Melatonin in the milk of all subjects exhibited a pronounced daily rhythm, with high levels during the night and undetectable levels during the day. The presence of the rhythm in milk suggests that melatonin fluctuations in milk might communicate time of day information to breast-fed infants.