Sixteen pure-bred Iberian (IB) sows were used in two trials to determine the efficiency of utilization of milk protein and amino acid (AA) for growth in suckling piglets. It was hypothesized that there may be one or more strongly limiting essential AA (EAA) responsible for the slow rate of growth of the IB piglet. This AA will show the highest fractional retention. Daily milk yield and composition were determined weekly over a 34-day lactation period. Within each litter, one piglet at birth and four piglets on d 35 of life were slaughtered. The protein content of the IB sow milk was similar to that reported for conventional breeds. However, branched-chain AA, Thr, Pro, Asp and Ala were in concentrations somewhat below the range of literature values and Arg and Met, substantially above it. Milk intake per piglet tended to be greater in Trial 2 (832 vs. 893 g/day respectively; p = 0.066). However, the IB piglets grew at 168 ± 3.3 g/day, irrespective of the trial. The whole-body protein of piglets at weaning and the protein deposited in their body during the lactating period showed very close AA pattern. Among EAA, His and Arg show the highest fractional retentions (g AA retained/g AA ingested) in whole-body tissues (1.019 ± 0.025 and 0.913 ± 0.017 respectively) and also the highest body to milk ratios (1.50 and 1.41 respectively). Gly and Ala presented, among non essential AA, the highest efficiencies of utilization for tissue deposition (1.803 ± 0.057 and 1.375 ± 0.026 respectively) and body to milk ratios (2.75 and 2.12 respectively). These results suggest that the low efficiency of utilization of milk protein and the low rate of gain of the IB suckling piglet can be explained by a marked shortage in His supply, in addition to the suboptimal milk provision of Arg, Gly and Ala.