Nursing in Public - Discreet or modest?

You're out and about with your baby. It's time to eat. Should you cover up? Good question. It's a rather tired debate. While some would argue that you're obligated to cover up when nursing, the choice is yours. And either choice is just fine.

Many women who choose to cover up do so because they want to be discreet. While I certainly don't object to the choice, I do object to the reasoning. Using a nursing cover is less discreet than opting out of the cover. Think I'm crazy? Hear me out.

Covering up is about modesty rather than discretion. Whether you use a nursing cover or a baby blanket, the purpose of covering up is to avoid exposing your breast in public. If your personal or cultural sense of modesty requires that you cover your breasts at all times, then covering up is the way to go. Nursing in public with a cover ensures that no one will see your breasts.

Being discreet is not about modesty in skin exposure. Being discreet is about nursing in such a way as to keep those around you from realizing that you're nursing. Covering up makes it more likely that people will notice you nursing. It's not that you're being too flashy or showy with it. It's simply that a large blanket or cloth draped over your body is likely to draw more attention to you than if you didn't have what is essentially a somewhat unusual garment on. Furthermore, a nursing cover is a garment/accessory with one purpose: to aid in modest nursing. Therefore, wearing a nursing cover provides a clear message that you are nursing. 

What about nursing in public without a cover? It will likely expose more skin. However, it allows discreet nursing. People passing by will see you holding your baby close to you. Some people may look closely enough to realize that you're nursing, but it's easy to miss. 

If you know that you feel most comfortable covering up (or not covering up), then it doesn't matter what is most modest or most discreet. Breastfeeding is beautiful and natural. There's no shame in nursing however you see fit. But if you're on the fence about whether or not to use a nursing cover, consider what your goals are in terms of nursing in public. Is it more important to you to conceal your breasts or to decrease the likelihood that others will notice you nursing?

Or you can choose not to care either way and make the decision based on what feels most natural for you to do.