To determine vitamin A (retinol) and fat concentrations in breast milk during early lactation. Healthy lactating women (n 88) aged between 18 and 35 years were randomly selected for the study from urban, semi-urban, rural and estate (plantation) sectors of Galle District. Their anthropometry was recorded; breast milk samples were collected from the right breast one hour after the last feed. Breast milk retinol was determined by HPLC and fat content by the crematocrit method. Subjects were in the 2nd to 9th month of lactation. Retinol concentrations of the breast milk samples ranged from 0.10 to 2.46 micromol/l, with a mean of 0.50 micromol/l, and correlated positively with parity (Pearson correlation coefficient, r = 0.307; P = 0.01) and negatively with period of lactation (r = -0.209; P = 0.05). The fat content of breast milk ranged between 5.09 and 56.46 g/l with a mean of 26.95 g/l. A significant difference in either breast milk fat or retinol content and mean birth weight of the babies was not seen between the groups. The ratio of retinol to fat in breast milk was positively correlated with weight (r = 0.274; P = 0.01) and height (r = 0.328; P < 0.001) of the mothers. In this primary investigation on breast milk quality the fat content was found to be marginal; the majority of lactating mothers (92.0%) were not providing the minimum daily requirement (1.05 micromol/l) of retinol to their babies.