Factors that direct the immune responsiveness of the newborn beyond the immediate post-natal period are not known. We investigated the influence of mode of delivery and type of feeding on the phagocyte activity during the first 6 months of life. Sixty-four healthy infants (34 delivered vaginally and 30 by elective Caesarean section) were studied at birth and at the ages of 2 and 6 months. Phagocyte functions were studied by measuring the chemiluminescence (CL) activity of whole blood and isolated leucocytes and by investigating the expression of phagocyte receptors (FcγRI (CD64), FcγRII (CD32), FcγRIII (CD16), CR1 (CD35), CR3 (CD11b) and FcαR (CD89)) on neutrophils, monocytes and eosinophils by using receptor-specific MoAbs and immunofluorescence flow cytometry. Infants born by elective Caesarean section had significantly higher CL activity than those delivered vaginally during the entire 6-month follow up. In addition, infants who received formula feeds had significantly higher CL activity at 6 months of age and higher expression of FcγRI-, Fcα- and CR3-receptors on neutrophils than infants exclusively breast-fed. We suggest that stress reaction associated with labour influences the phagocytic activity measured in the cord blood but later during infancy the intraluminal antigens, gut microflora and diet, become important determinants in immune programming of human individuals.