Why Shawn Johnson Doesn't Care What You Think About Her Breastfeeding Journey

Still harboring "a little bit of PTSD" over her struggles to nurse daughter Drew, Shawn Johnson didn't know what to expect with newborn son Jett. She told E! News why it's been a huge learning curve.

By Sarah Grossbart Sep 25, 2021 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Olympian Shawn Johnson Reveals the Name of Her 2nd Child

Admittedly, they were prepared for the wooooooooorst

"We had so many people tell us to just buckle up because it was going to be the hardest thing of our life," Shawn Johnson told E! News of the mindset she and husband Andrew East shared ahead of welcoming their second child, now 2-month-old son Jett, into the fold. And while she said, "yes it is hard and it is a lot," juggling the dreaded two under 2 hasn't been all that bad.

Dare she say it's kinda nice? 

With 22-month-old daughter Drew, "I felt like we were always just hoping for the easier phase to kick in that we wished away a lot of it, which I think happens with your first kid, naturally," she reasoned. "And with Jett, we really planned ahead to make sure we had a solid two months off from work where we could just be a family and we could appreciate it and kind of suffer through it in a very appreciative way. And we've just truly been able to enjoy these past couple of months, which is awesome."

2021 Celebrity Babies

In other words, she totally stuck the landing. 

Having been there, done all of that so recently with Drew, "I think going to two is easier than going to one," explained the four-time Olympic medalist. "You don't have as many new parent fears. Because you know how to feed them, you know how to put them to sleep, you know what to expect."

Which meant that the middle-of-the-night wake-ups that left the 29-year-old gymnast and the NFL long snapper, 30, so flummoxed with Drew ("It's two a.m. and you're both super tired," East recalled to E! News last year, "and there are sound machines blaring and you can't hear anything so you end up always being frustrated and mad at each other, really, for no reason") were almost sweet.  

Gabrielle Hopkins/@gabriellehopkins

"Those first few weeks of sleepiness nights, it was such a drain and I felt like we were just wishing for it to be over," noted Johnson of her new parent days, "whereas with Jett, we were really excited about it. Because I was like, 'I'm excited to be up in the middle of the night with him and see him and kind of live that.' So I think I've been able to appreciate things more with him."

Take away the sort of panic she felt the first time around and any time to stress about finding the exact perfect pacifiers (though she has, fwiw: Philips Avent's new Soothie Heart for Drew; their ultra soft for Jett) or create the perfect cool, dark, quiet sleeping environment and you've got the right recipe for a much easier go-round. 

"I would overthink everything: Has it been too long since I fed her? Should I make sure she's swaddled in the crib for every nap?" admitted Johnson. "And with your second, you just truly don't have time to think about it. So we're taking naps on the couch. I'm laying him on the floor on a blanket or something. We're sleeping in the car. I feel more free as a parent to just let things happen."

Come at her, Internet mom shamers. (Actually, don't. No one needs that in their life.) 

"With my daughter, it was defeating reading trolls' comments because I already didn't know what I was doing and I was already second-guessing every decision I made," Johnson reflected on those fraught few months. "But within the past two years of my daughter, I've just learned that every parent parents differently. And however you parent your child is perfect for that child." 

With that realization, "I can now, with confidence, say, 'I'm choosing this because it's the best for him and it's the best for us and it doesn't have to be the best for you,'" she noted of her response to haters. "So it's easier for me to kind of like push people off. But I really struggled with that the first time."

Jessica Steddom (@jessicasteddom)

The toughest attacks came from the breast is best contingent of the Internet, Johnson having made the choice to be open about her struggles to breastfeed Drew. She landed on the choice that both kept her daughter nourished and put an end to the weeks of miserable, fruitless feeds. "I started talking to our pediatrician and nurses and friends and they were all saying, 'Stop stressing. You don't need to breastfeed. Pump. If you can't pump enough, use formula,'" she told E! News last year. "It was just so easy for them to say it."

And yet even with the backing of her doctor, friends and suddenly "happiest baby ever" Drew, she still found herself defeated by those who criticized her choice. "I struggled with that," she acknowledged to E! News. "Because I already felt guilty and there's so much as a mom that you go through."

Gabrielle Hopkins/@gabriellehopkins

So she was bracing for the worst when she first tried nursing Jett. "I had a little bit of PTSD from Drew, just because we struggled so much with breastfeeding. I was in tears every day for a couple weeks, she was hysterical," she recalled. "And when he did latch well and he did nurse well, it was amazing."

Johnson held her breath again the first time she introduced a bottle. "I was terrified if he went to a bottle and didn't come back, because I really didn't want to exclusively pump again," she said. "And then I also was terrified that he wouldn't take the bottle." Thankfully he happily accepted Philips Avent's Natural baby bottle, which "doesn't let the milk come out unless they're actually feeding," she noted. "We are going back and forth now from breastfeeding and bottle, which is great. And he hasn't had any problem."

Still, everything's a learning curve.

After exclusively pumping with Drew, "I know everything about pumping there is to know," she noted. But now nursing for the first time, she's finding herself still experimenting with positions and how to most efficiently and comfortably nurse in public. And then there's that one feed, usually in the early evening, "Where I just want to cry," she admitted. "I'm just like, 'Okay, you're screaming, I know you're hungry. You're probably tired. Why won't you eat?'" 

Sharing her woes on Instagram, she learned two things: Babies can be freakishly strong when they're resisting and her struggle is very common. "Every single mom came back and said, that's normal and we deal with it," she revealed. "Evidently, that's just the witching hour and every baby goes through it."

Thankfully Jett is delivering on the adorable baby front, already acing tummy time and, perhaps most importantly, nighttime, sleeping solidly from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

"And he's smiling!" she crowed, a welcome change of events after Drew. "She really didn't giggle or laugh a lot. Even to this day, it's hard to get her to belly laugh, which is funny, because she is such a happy baby. So he's just kind of the opposite. He's so smiley and whenever he looks at you or you say something, he's just, like, wide-eyed and big smiles. And it's just so great."

So it's not alllll that surprising that the gymnast is walking back from her January assertion to E! News that she and East were most likely "set on two" kids. 

Admitting she's been having "a lot of thoughts about it" since Jett's July arrival, she said, "After Drew, I knew I wasn't done. I knew for a fact I was going to have another baby. But then having a boy and having a second, I don't know. So it's like every day that I hold him and he starts growing up a little bit more and getting bigger, I have a thought in my head, like, 'Is this the last time I'm going to hold my own baby at this stage?'"

In other words, "I'll probably go through it again." 

Instagram / Shawn Johnson

Not quite yet, the 4-foot-11 athlete understandably a little hesitant to jump into another pregnancy what with her 6-foot-2 football playing husband "giving me 10-pound babies." Showing earlier the second time around, "I felt nine months pregnant by the time I was two months pregnant," she said. "So I was in the discomfort phase for a lot longer."

But then she looks at fearless Drew jumping off the diving board into their pool "and she's just so blatantly not a baby anymore and it makes me sad," Johnson said.

Or she'll watch her little ones lying down together. "She's the best big sister, she loves him so much," Johnson gushes. "So much so that she likes to, like, lay on top of him and smother him with kisses when she's got a cold and just give me anxiety. But she's amazing and I think they'll be really close friends, which makes me really happy."

Jessica Steddom

So, fine, bring on three under 4 or whatever. 

Before welcoming Drew, "We had so many people say, 'Oh, you know, your life is basically over. You're not going to be able to travel again, you're not going to hang out with friends again,'" she recalled. "And I think that's all a lie. I think you can choose whatever life you want with a child. It just takes planning and sacrifice. And it's just part of it." 

What she gets back in return is worth every missed hour of sleep. "It's the best," she insisted of parenting. "It's the best thing you'll ever do, truly."