Leptin is a 16-kD protein encoded by the ob/ob (obesity) gene. In rodents it plays a role in obesity, diabetes, fertility, and neuroendocrine function. In humans serum concentrations of leptin correlate with total body fat in both adults and children. We measured cord blood leptin in 186 neonates that included 82 appropriate for gestational age (AGA), 47 large for gestational age (LGA), 20 infants of diabetic mothers, 52 preterm infants, and 15 intrauterine growth-retarded (IUGR) infants. There were 16 pairs of twins. The mothers of 17 preterm infants were treated with steroids before delivery. Leptin (mean +/- SD) concentration in term, AGA infants (39.4 +/- 1.1 wk) with birth weight (BW) of 3.2 +/- 0.3 kg, body mass index (BMI) of 12.6 +/- 1.1 was 4.01 +/- 3.5 ng/mL. BW correlated with cord leptin (p = 0.002) in a multivariate analysis controlling for potential confounders. Both LGA infants and infants of diabetic mothers had higher cord leptin concentration 7.3 +/- 3.8 and 6.1 +/- 4.8 ng/mL, respectively, compared with AGA infants (p < 0.05). Preterm infants had a mean leptin level of 1.8 +/- 0.97 ng/mL and a 3-fold elevation was seen if mothers received steroids antenatally (p = 0.006). IUGR infants had increased leptin (6.5 +/- 3.9 ng/mL, p = 0.03). Concerning the twin pairs, the smaller had a higher leptin level compared with larger twin (4.1 +/- 9.51 versus 2.8 +/- 5.14, p = NS). Neonatal cord leptin concentrations correlate well with BW and BMI. No gender differences were found in cord blood leptin. Maternal obesity had no effect on cord leptin, whereas exogenous maternal steroids increased neonatal leptin concentrations.