objectives: to reveal the guiding influences and through these to draw up a proposal to stimulate the participation of men in breast feeding, identifying strategies at the various phases in a man's life, from childhood to fatherhood. methods: a descriptive, exploratory and qualitative study was carried out, whose guidelines and proposals were based on examination of statements gathered in the course of semi-structured interviews conducted with 17 couples, living on the bode favela, in recife, in the state of pernambuco, brazil. the statements were interpreted using manifest content analysis, based on the theoretical notion of the historical, social and cultural construction of fatherhood, and subsequently used to determine the guiding influences and draw up proposals. results: the principal guiding influences were found to be the family, the school and the health unit, all of which help to draw up a proposal for the initiation of breast feeding at the outpatients clinic (during prenatal family consultations when the child is aged six months) and the socialization of male and female children in favor of breast feeding. this proposal includes activities that aim to involve the father in breast feeding. conclusions: some significant features of the guiding influences tend to exclude men from the breast feeding process. the essence of this proposal is therefore to serve as a model for stimulating the participation of fathers in breast feeding and for building up a health program to be introduced in schools and health units, as a way of changing the culture of breast feeding and extending its duration.