PARENTS are campaigning to keep crèche facilities at six council-run leisure centres amid fears that their loss will exacerbate post-natal depression.
Mothers and young children with placards and tambourines protested outside today's full council meeting at Lothian Chambers over the plans.
The group of around 30 mothers with toddlers were joined by city Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz, and leaflets were handed to passers-by on George IV Bridge.
Around 1200 people have now signed a petition against the closures by Edinburgh Leisure, which come after the city council cut its grant by 300,000.
Mother of one Karina McFall, from Lockhart Gardens, said: "The creches are a lifeline for so many women in Edinburgh. We are disgusted they will be closed.
"Our opinions have been disregarded and the council is discriminating against babies, children and their carers."
The facilities at Drumbrae, Gracemount and Kirkliston leisure centres, Leith Victoria and Portobello swimming centres and Craiglockhart Tennis and Sports Centre are to be closed.
The crches were used by thousands of children last year while their mothers worked out or swam. Emma Jones, 31, a childminder from Portobello, uses the gym at Portobello Swim Centre, while her son Aidan, two, plays in the crche.
She said: "We've been going there for two years. He loves it, I don't know what I'm going to say to him.
"A lot of the parents have two children and will put one child in the crche while they take the other swimming, because you're not allowed to be in charge of two youngsters in the pool at the same time, so this is going to see a lot of children missing out as well."
Ms Jones added: "A lot of the people I've spoken to about this have been referred here by doctors as a way of getting through post-natal depression."
The importance of free time and exercise to new mothers has been backed by the Edinburgh-based post-natal depression project, which is also opposing any move to cut services. Pauline Gibb, deputy manager, said: "It's vital if you're suffering from post-natal depression."
Beverley Klein, 45, a solicitor from Willowbrae, whose two-year-old daughter Mhari uses the crche at Portobello, said: "I've been surprised by the response. Every time I've been in the crche there have been parents coming up and wanting to sign the petition."
A motion condemning the closures has also been tabled in the House of Commons by Mark Lazarowicz. Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: "Edinburgh Leisure's main job is to provide sports facilities, not childcare," he said.
"13 per customer for each visit is a huge subsidy and one that isn't sustainable."
• Edinburgh Leisure website
• Edinburgh City Council website