Summary During preimplantation development, the embryo must establish totipotency and enact the earliest differentiation choices, processes that involve extensive chromatin modification. To identify novel developmental regulators, we screened for genes that are preferentially transcribed in the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) of the mouse blastocyst. Genes that encode chromatin remodeling factors were prominently represented in the ICM, including Chd1l, a member of the Snf2 gene family. Chd1l is developmentally regulated and expressed in embryonic stem (ES) cells, but its role in development has not been investigated. Here we show that inhibiting Chd1l protein production by microinjection of antisense morpholinos causes arrest prior to the blastocyst stage. Despite this important function in vivo, Chd1l is non-essential for cultured ES cell survival, pluripotency, or differentiation, suggesting that Chd1l is vital for events in embryos that are distinct from events in ES cells. Our data reveal a novel role for the chromatin remodeling factor Chd1l in the earliest cell divisions of mammalian development.