The present study was undertaken to study different methodological aspects of quantifying CO2 production and milk intake of suckling piglets using the doubly labelled water (DLW) technique. In total, 37 piglets were enriched intraperitoneally with DLW to study equilibration time of 18O (n = 3), to validate the estimation of milk intake and CO2 production (n = 10) of piglets fed milk replacer and to quantify milk intake and CO2 production of piglets nursed ordinarily by sows (n = 24). Enrichment of 18O in expired air was analysed without any sample preparation, whereas enrichment of 18O in serum was analysed after a minimum step of sample preparation, which included pipetting of the sample, blowing gaseous CO2 into the vial for 3 s and equilibrating for 24 h. The 18O enrichment of CO2 in expired air was constant within 30–40 min of intraperitoneal injection, suggesting that DLW was equilibrated within the body water by that time. For piglets fed milk replacer, the estimation of the daily CO2 production by the DLW method (64.0 ± 2.7 l CO2/day) was in agreement with that obtained by respiration trials (64.7 ± 1.8 l CO2/day). Furthermore, the intake of milk replacer (891 ± 63 g/day) determined by deuterium oxide (D2O) dilution was similar in magnitude to that found by weighing the milk disappearance (910 ± 58 g/day). The milk intake of piglets fed milk replacer was comparable with that of sucking piglets, but sucking piglets had a remarkably higher CO2 production than artificially reared piglets, which likely was caused by a higher intake of milk solids and a higher activity level. For sucking piglets, the daily CO2 production increased curvilinearly with increasing live weight (LW) in kg: piglet CO2 production (l/day) = 25.75 × LW − 1.01 × LW2. In conclusion, 18O equilibrates fast within the body water pool when administered intraperitoneally, and the accuracy of assessing milk intake and rate of CO2 production using the DLW technique is promising. Assessment of excess enrichment of 18O in serum proved to be robust. Finally, the CO2 production of piglets fed milk replacer differs considerably from that of sucking piglets.