The Olympic gold medalist, 28, revealed to PEOPLE how both she and her and husband, Andrew East, decided to give their daughter formula despite initially breastfeeding for the week they were in the hospital after Johnson East’s cesarean section.
“It was a wrestling match every time,” admitted Johnson East, who recently announced she would be the first-ever spokesperson for Enfamil. “I would be bawling, she would be bawling and screaming ’cause she was hungry, but she wouldn’t eat and she wouldn’t latch anymore.”
The new parents decided to reach out to a lactation consultant that ended poorly.
“I had a really bad experience with a lactation consultant and I all but kicked her out of my house because she basically said that I had ruined my child’s life because I gave her a bottle and formula,” she recounts of being “shamed” by the consultant.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t listen to this anymore.’ “
Johnson East recalls feeling the “baffling experience of a desperate mom trying to take the best care of her child and getting shamed for it,” along with a “guilt” and “innate fear” of doing it all wrong.
“You have this natural feeling of responsibility that you have to provide for your baby and part of it is supplying milk, and when you can’t give that to your child in whatever way or reason, you already feel a little guilty,” she continued.
“You feel like you’re not setting them up for life, and when people give their opinions and say ‘breast is best,’ it just makes you feel like a failure. I hated that.”
Johnson East eventually switched to a mix of pumping breast milk and Enfamil Enspire formula.
“When it comes to traveling and working and doing everything, it’s really hard to keep caught up, so I started doing at least two bottles a day that [is] half and half breast milk and formula so I can save up breast milk in the freezer and just keep things on rotation, give myself some freedom,” she shared.
And in regards to the mom-shame comments Johnson East has received both online and in-person since the birth of her child on Oct. 29, she has decided to “trust [my] gut opinions that, as a mom, I’m doing the right thing for my kid” while also enjoying each and every moment of motherhood.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.