Residents of Hong Kong have undergone a dietary transition from a traditional Chinese diet that is high in seafood to a more Western diet. This may have affected the nutritional composition of breast milk of Hong Kong mothers. The present study aims to investigate the relationship between the dietary pattern and the fatty acid profile of the breast milk of lactating women in Hong Kong. Seventy-three volunteering healthy Hong Kong lactating mothers participated in the study. Their dietary intakes were assessed by using a 3-d dietary record and FFQ. The mean n-3 fatty acid levels were approximately 0·4 % (EPA) and 0·9 % (DHA) of total fatty acids in the breast milk of lactating mothers who had exclusively breastfed their infants aged 2–6 months. Maternal dietary intakes of n-3 fatty acids were positively associated with their levels in the breast milk. The levels of maternal intakes of freshwater and saltwater fish, especially the consumption of salmon, croaker and mandarin, were significantly correlated with the content of DHA in breast milk. The present study is among the very few in the literature to determine the fatty acid profile of breast milk in Hong Kong populations and verify certain dietary factors that influence this profile. High levels of n-3 PUFA, especially DHA, were observed in the breast milk of Hong Kong lactating women. The findings may serve as a dietary reference for lactating mothers to optimise the fatty acid profile of their breast milk.