Exercise classes that promise to help your baby's brain development, language programs to foster a lifelong love of learning, music lessons and DVDs of classical music to enrich and entertain your newborn. Today's parents are being bombarded with messages that they must have their baby enrolled in a variety of enrichment classes to ensure future success.
And new research has found that the pressure is leading to rising anxiety among parents that their child may have missed the academic boat before they even start school.
Ciara Smyth, a researcher with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, has spent the past four years analysing the marketing messages sent to new parents about enhancing children's learning and their response.
''There were so many ads with the message that if you want your child to do well, you need to give them this head start, you need to enrol them in this class,'' she said. ''It taps into parental concerns about their children's cognitive development in order to sell these products. There is this industry which is preying on these parental fears and concerns.''
Her research, to be presented at the Australian Social Policy Conference this week, found that parents felt increasingly driven to maximise learning opportunities for their children from as early as six weeks.
''It's hard not to feel the pressure,'' she said. ''You read this and wonder if this is what good parents do. My child isn't enrolled in Japanese classes and he's already three. Is he doomed to a life of failure as a result?''
The focus on ''school readiness'' was causing anxiety in parents, she found. One parent expressed concern that her four-year-old would rather play than do letters and numbers.
And many with children born between January and July said they intended to keep children back from starting kindergarten until they were older.
''It's just the way parenting is these days,'' Ms Smyth said.
''Previously, parents thought as long as they're fed and clothed and watered I've done my job. But now, in the preschool years, there's this expectation that my child has to be able to do all these things before they go to school.''
Ms Smyth believes the shift has been caused by the emphasis on cognitive development in early childhood.
''No one is saying that the first three years aren't important, but there was almost this sense that the first three years represented a window of opportunity that would slam shut once the child hit three,'' she said.
''The first three years are important but they are not the be all and end all.''
That pressure has been compounded by a school system which measures children from the time they enter kindergarten with the Australian Early Development Index through to NAPLAN and the Higher School Certificate.
''There has also been emphasis on education for economic competitiveness,'' she said.
''Governments often talk about needing to strive harder; we need our children to succeed because we need to be more competitive in this global knowledge-based economy.''
Dr Kate Highfield, an early childhood specialist from Macquarie University, urged parents to be wary of products or classes that promised to promote intelligence.
''You can't judge parents for wanting to value add for their child,'' she said. ''Regardless of whether you're looking at apps or toys or activities that claim to enhance a child's learning, parents really need to do their research and find out whether it does indeed have educational benefit.''
Willoughby couple Paul Taylor and Angela Tesoriero originally enrolled their daughter Mia-Francesca in Italian classes while she was still in preschool for cultural reasons, but found that it stimulated her interest in learning overall.
The five-year-old is now studying German at school, French through the Alliance Francaise, and also has music lessons.
Mr Taylor, a speech and drama coach, believes learning new skills at a young age has been helpful for his daughter, who started kindergarten this year.
''I think it has made a difference,'' he said. ''She's much more receptive to learning new things generally. She's also developed an interest in other countries, just off the back of doing the languages, so I think it's been good.''