We evaluated the effect of maternal vitamin E supplementation on the α-tocopherol concentrations of colostrum, transitional milk and mature milk of women who had given birth prematurely. This longitudinal randomised-controlled trial divided eighty-nine women into two groups: a control group and a supplemented group. Blood and breast milk were collected from all the participants after delivery. Next, each woman in the supplemented group received 400 IU of RRR-α-tocopheryl acetate. Further breast milk samples were collected 24 h after the first collection, as well as 7 and 30 d after delivery. α-Tocopherol concentrations were determined by HPLC. The baseline α-tocopherol concentrations in the maternal serum of the two groups were similar: 1159·8 (sd 292·4) μg/dl (27·0 (SD 6·8) μmol/l) for the control group and 1128·3 (sd 407·2) μg/dl (26·2 (SD 9·5) μmol/l) for the supplemented group. None of the women was vitamin E deficient. Breast milk α-tocopherol concentrations increased by 60 % 24 h after supplementation in the intervention group and did not increase at all in the control group. α-Tocopherol concentration of the transitional milk in the supplemented group was 35 % higher compared with the control group. α-Tocopherol concentrations of the mature milk in both groups were similar. Maternal supplementation with 400 IU of RRR-α-tocopherol increased the vitamin E concentrations of the colostrum and transitional milk, but not of the mature milk. This study presents relevant information for the design of strategies to prevent and combat vitamin E deficiency in the risk group of preterm infants.