To determine the lipid content and fatty acid (FA) composition of breast milk from fifty-two lactating women between ninth and twelfth lactation weeks in rural North China. The mothers were questioned on their dietary habits. Total milk lipids extracts were transmethylated and analysed using GLC to determine FA contents. The mean lipid content was 40·21 (sd 1·43) g/l. SFA constituted 35·92 % of the total FA. Medium-chain and long-chain SFA presented levels of 10·91 and 25·01 %, respectively. MUFA and PUFA constituted 32·59 and 19·97 % of the total FA, respectively. Oleic, linoleic and α-linolenic acid (ALA) presented contents of 31·26, 17·73 and 1·03 %, respectively. Arachidonic acid had a content of 0·30 %, while DHA content was 0·19 %. Not any form of trans FA were found in human milk samples. A maternal diet transition is proceeding in China. Further investigation on the analysis of human milk FA composition is needed to upgrade the human milk database in China.