Jana Pittman is one of Australia’s greatest female athletes. She’s represented Australia at three Olympic Games, is a four-time Commonwealth hurdles champion, plus she’s the first Australian woman to compete in both a summer and winter Olympics (hello bobsled team!). But what many might not realise is what an absolute super-mum she is too. Jana is a mother to six children (yes six!) including her new twins, Willow and Quinlan, who were born in March this year. 

But that’s not all… She’s also a qualified medical doctor, specialising in women’s health with a Masters in reproductive medicine, and somewhere in the middle of all these sporting, career and parenting achievements, she even found time to go on SAS Australia. We had a quick chat to Jana about how motherhood and the secret to her success!

Firstly, congrats on the recent safe arrival of the twins. How are you surviving motherhood with six kids?

Thankyou – it’s busy but it’s going well! I always found it hard after having a baby that my cluckiness didn’t go away. I’d think, ‘My goodness when am I ever going to feel complete?’ well, I now finally feel like my family is done at six kids!

Tell us all about your family.

There’s Cornelius, 15, who’s kind, friendly and an amazing babysitter; Emily, 7, who is the spitting image of me personality wise – driven, sensitive, loving; Jemima, 5, my outgoing pocket rocket; Charlie, 18 months, who’s very adventurous and can often be found standing on the kitchen table; and the twins who are 10 weeks. Quinlin who was born first is super chilled and Willow is already quite fiery. And then there’s my husband, Paul, who helps hold everything together and thankfully is great at cleaning.

You went into labour with the twins at 35 weeks after a fall at home. What happened?

I had a speaking gig and was rushing around. Charlie started running up the stairs, so I chased after him. He fell backwards and I tried to catch him, but I then fell quite hard on the stairs. It brought everything on as I’d already been having intermittent contractions for a few days.

Besides coming two weeks earlier than hoped for, did the birth go as planned?

Yes, it was beautiful and calm. It was a risky delivery as it was a twin vaginal birth, and we knew Willow was breech. However, my vaginal births had all been good – I labour quickly, have a good pelvis and never had any tears. However, If I’d needed a c-section for Willow I would have done that. My amazing obstetrician and myself were prepared to make the best decisions.

You’re currently working with The Breast Feeding Tea Co. How are they helping your breastfeeding journey?

I’ve always had ups and downs with breastfeeding. With Cornelius I stopped at six weeks and with Jemima it went off and on for three years! With medication to help promote milk supply its only something you can take for a short while. Breastfeeding Charlie wasn’t working well, so I researched galactagogues – food or herbs that may help increase supply. I found the Lactation Tea from The Breast Feeding Tea Co. on their website which contains amazing galactagogues such as Blessed Thistle and Nettle. It tastes great and worked for me immediately – I was so relieved! 

So how are you managing your breastfeeding journey for two and keeping up your milk supply? 

I make a big pot of the tea in the morning and drink cups throughout the day. About three hours after drinking a cup I have a good let down. I also take advice from a lactation consultant when I need to. At the beginning when it was really tough with the twins, I was feeding eight times a day and expressing eight times a day into bottles it was horrible! I topped up with formula as well, but now my milk supply is really good, and the babies have been exclusively breast fed since three weeks.

Any advice for mums struggling with breastfeeding?

Give yourself a break, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Then try everything. That may be lactation tea and lactation cookies – the ones from Franjos are good – it may be more pumping or medication. I know it’s a challenge hunting down what may work for you, so be open minded. I’ll be appearing at the 2022 Naturally Good Expo, on June 6&7, encouraging more retailers to stock the tea so it’s available in more chemists and stores as it’s good for women to have options.

How has the rest of your recovery been? Carrying two babies must be super-tough on your pelvic floor! Are you living in Modibodi now?

I’m working with a women’s physio now which has helped strengthen my pelvic floor. After labour I couldn’t hold my urine in for a week, I had to wear a big nappy! But now I can go for a run, jump up and down, sneeze and am pretty continent! The Modibodi underwear has really helped and given me confidence to go about my day.

What led you down the path of medicine and what do you find more rewarding; competing for your country at the Olympics or working with women supporting their health?

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor since I was five and Mum bought me a little doctor’s bag with a stethoscope. I got very close to not doing medicine thinking I was too old for a career change, but I’m so grateful I took the leap. I definitely prefer medicine to athletics, I get an adrenalin rush out of helping women.

When do you think you will be back in the scrubs at work? Or perhaps there is something different up next for Jana-Emily Pittman? 

In two months, I’ll be returning to work part time at the hospital. I’m a senior resident in women’s health obstetrics and gynaecology and a year away from being a registrar. I also do public speaking and eventually want to form a business to inspire women and find their strength.