Shawn Johnson East on unsolicited parenting advice: “It’s so intimidating”

In an exclusive interview with Motherly, the former Olympian opened up about parenting during the pandemic and preparing for baby number two.

Shawn-Johnson-East-Andrew-East-holding-daughter-Drew-Hazel
Shawn Johnson East/Instagram

Shawn Johnson East and her husband Andrew East are getting ready to welcome baby number two. The athletes are already parents to one-year-old daughter Drew Hazel and Shawn is in her last trimester with their baby boy.

As the former Olympic gymnast waits for her son to make his big debut, she's reflecting on all she's learned about parenting since welcoming Drew in 2019.

"Every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should," she told Motherly in an exclusive interview.


"I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent, you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly, if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong."

Johnson East is dedicated to supporting other parents and families. She's partnering with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on a new campaign, "Raising the 'Bar' to Help Kids." Now through August 13, Ferrero's Crunch, Butterfinger, and Baby Ruth will feature limited-edition wrappers with artwork drawn by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals' child ambassadors and sales will benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

"I'm a mama," she said. "And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby."

Johnson East has been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals since she was a teenager, but says the partnership makes even more sense now that she's a parent. Even little Drew is taking part.

"She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much," Johnson East said with a laugh. "Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that."

Read on to learn more about how Shawn handled parenting during a pandemic, what she's nervous about when it comes to baby number two, and what she hopes people take away from her social media posts.

Motherly: How are you feeling?

Johnson East: I'm feeling good! I am ready to have this baby.

How are you preparing for him? It is a boy, correct?

Johnson East: It is a boy and honestly, just trying to keep myself distracted. Really not much preparation. I should probably start preparing.

Can you tell me what it's been like being pregnant during the pandemic, parenting a toddler during the pandemic?

Johnson East: Just absolute chaos. I think for any mom going through a year of the pandemic was hard, rightfully so, but it's uncharted territory. Nobody's ever really been through that or done that so it was a learning process for everybody. Trying to work from home, trying to be a mom at the same time, trying to raise a toddler, trying to socialize her in a very safe way—all these different things and then getting pregnant, it adds a lot of fear. It's just one of those things where you just have to take it one day at a time and try to educate yourself as much as possible. Just hope for the best.

How did Drew do this year?

Johnson East: She killed it. She had an awesome year. She's the greatest little baby ever. I'm obviously biased but she's so fun and she's so outgoing. I think we're definitely ready to live a little bit more normal of a toddler life, hang out with friends more, see more kids. She did awesome.

Is she excited for her baby brother?

Johnson East: I think so. I also think she has no idea what's happening.

We love your TikTok videos with your husband, especially where he finds out what it's like to be pregnant.

Johnson East: That is all my husband. He is the nerd/creative/genius of the house. He always comes to me like, 'Babe, I have an idea!' I'm like, 'oh, okay…'. I've always been the serious one in the relationship, and I love his goofiness and I love his creativity. He makes life so fun.

The response to them has really resonated with mothers and people on TikTok. People really love seeing his honest reactions.

Johnson East: He's been such a go-with-the-flow husband and dad and I think he and I love being able to show people that it's okay to struggle your way through it and to make terrible mistakes and just fall flat on your face. He loves to learn, he loves to celebrate family and dadhood and momhood. He's a lot of fun.

Is that what you hope people take away from your social media?

Johnson East: Yes, that life is not perfect nor should it ever be. My husband is so tired of following social media and seeing these perfect people when that does not exist, especially as a parent. It's just messy. You have no idea what you're doing. And you're so terrified. I think for us, it's refreshing for us to be able to show the messy side of it because it just makes it feel like we're human. To see people respond and be like, 'oh, thank you, Jesus. Because I was going through the same thing but I thought I was the only one.' It just makes you feel normal.

You're preparing for your second child! Do you feel ready to bring home another baby? Or do you not know what to expect with baby number two?

Johnson East: Both. I definitely don't feel as terrified as I did with Drew because honestly my husband and I had never even changed a diaper before my daughter. Like ever. I had never really ever babysat, like nothing. It was very new to both of us. I think this time around, we feel more confident in the baby side of things. But I'm definitely terrified of... I was thinking of the process of, how do I put my daughter to bed and my baby at the same time? That stuff freaks me out.

Do you want to tell me about your partnership with Children Network Miracle Hospitals? Why is that so important to you?

Johnson East: Sure! Because I'm a mama. And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby. I've been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals in as many ways as possible honestly since I was 16. Right after the Olympics, I went on a tour where we performed in all these different cities, and I got to visit Children's hospitals all across the country and meet all these incredible kids and families. I continued to do that since then and then my husband and I have done that. So whenever an opportunity arises to support Children's Miracle Network and the hospitals, we jump on it. Plus, this campaign is so fun! Being able to have the kids be involved with iconic candy bars and put their drawings on them and raise money on the same time? I think it's a genius way to truly raise the awareness that kids and families need.

You've been involved with them since you were a child, now you're raising your own children. Does Drew know about the partnership? Has she seen the candy bars?

Johnson East: She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much. Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that.

What's your best parenting advice? Or what's the advice you wish you had when you were pregnant with Drew?

Johnson East: That every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should. I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong. You're going to do the best you can in your way, and that's how it works for you.

What do you want people to know about you as a mom, athlete, parent, person?

Johnson East: That I'm learning every single day, just like everyone else is. I think it's really easy to put people on a pedestal. And to look at a social media platform and to interpret it as 'oh, they've really got it together' or 'they're that rock star mom.' And I'm not referring to myself, I'm referring to people that I see. And it's so easy to feel isolated and like you're not doing the best job. But I'm a hot mess who just had a meltdown when my baby doesn't eat the dinner that I fixed. I'm just like every other mom out there, just trying to learn and figure it out as I go.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

In This Article

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    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

    $159.99

    Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

    There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

    $9.99

    Breast Milk Storage Bags

    With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

    $9.99

    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

    Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

    $14.99

    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

    No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

    $29.99

    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

    With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

    $7.99

    This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

    The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

    Family Foodies

    15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

    $19.99

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

    $139

    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Sand play set

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

    For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

    $17.95

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $24.75

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    This mama shares the raw reality of newborn quadruplets

    "Most of the day, this is where you would find me―snuggled up with four little babies."

    The early days of motherhood are as raw and real as they come, and there's no doubt that mothers of multiples feel this even more intensely. Danya is a mother of quadruplets (plus an older son), and when her children were newborns, her husband was often on the road for work. This photo, which quickly went viral after Dayna shared it on her Instagram page, Hello Quadruplets, shows an authentic snapshot of what postpartum life really looks like with multiples after her babies came home from the NICU.

    Dayna reminisces, "This one really shows the rawness of how crazy and messy the first few weeks with quadruplets is. I basically lived in bed with them back then while my husband was on the road for work. I lived off a couple hours of sleep at night between them waking up and having to pump."


    Pretty incredible, right? Exhaustion didn't prevent this mama from being prepared, however.

    Dayna writes, "I had my nightstand covered with everything I needed, my pump, milk containers, their bottles, formula, their reflux medicine, pacifiers and drinks and snacks for me. I had the bed lined with Snuggle Me beds for when I needed to pump so they didn't grab the cords. Most of the day this is where you would find me, snuggled up with four little babies."

    As the old saying goes, "the days are long, but the years are short" (why is this SO accurate?), and Dayna looks back on this time fondly.

    "I actually miss those days, they went so fast. I feel like I was destined to be a quadruplet mom. Though it was tough, I have loved every minute of it."

    Life