The aims of the present study were to evaluate essential fatty acids (EFA) and long-chain PUFA (LCPUFA) status in lactating adolescents and its association with breast milk composition. Healthy nursing adolescents from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (n 30; 14–19 years; 30–120 d postpartum), exclusively or predominantly breast-feeding, participated in this study. Breast milk and blood samples were collected after overnight fasting. Fatty acid composition of breast milk, erythrocyte membrane (EM) and plasma NEFA were determined by GC. Indices of fatty acid status (mean melting point (MMP); EFA status index; DHA status indices, 22 : 5n-6:22 : 4n-6 and 22 : 6n-3:22 : 5n-6 ratios) were calculated from EM fatty acid composition. Dietary intake of n-3 fatty acids was low when compared with current recommendations for lactating women. MMP was associated with indices of DHA status, some individual fatty acids in EM and years post-menarche and weeks postpartum, suggesting the use of erythrocyte MMP as a possible comprehensive biochemical marker of LCPUFA status in this physiological condition. The DHA status of lactating adolescents and their milk DHA concentrations were similar to the values of Brazilian lactating adults, but lower compared with the values of lactating adults from other countries. Therefore, these lactating adolescents were apparently not disadvantaged, as compared with the Brazilian adults, when EM and breast milk fatty acid composition were considered. In general, PUFA in milk from adolescents presented few associations with their concentrations in plasma NEFA and with maternal status. However, milk DHA was associated with maternal LCPUFA and DHA states.