Most cows' milk based formulae for infant feeding present a greater acid load to the infant than breast milk. To determine the effect of this difference the acid base state of 180 healthy term infants was measured on the sixth day of life and related to the type of feed. Those infants fed on cows' milk formula (SMA) had a mean pH of 7-34 +/- 0-05 and a base deficit of 8-8 +/- 3-1, while those fed on breast milk had a mean pH of 7-38 +/- 0-05 and a base deficit of 5-6 +/- 3-1. The difference between the two groups of infants was significant for both these measurements. Metabolic acidosis was defined as a base deficit greater than 10 mmol/l. Seventy-four per cent of the 34 infants who were acidotic at six days were bottle-fed. There was a significant correlation between the pH of the feed and the degree of acidosis in the infant as measured by the base deficit. The findings suggest that when breast milk is not available a pH-adjusted milk formula would be desirable for preventing and treating neonatal metabolic acidosis.