This review describes the pathogenesis, clinical presentation and biochemical perturbations found in privational (nutritional) rickets and pseudo-vitamin D deficiency rickets (PDDR), an autosomal recessive condition with loss of function mutations in CYP27B1. It may seem strange to combine a discussion on privational rickets and PDDR as a single topic, but privational rickets and PDDR present with similar clinical signs and symptoms and with similar perturbations in bone and mineral metabolism. Of interest is the characteristic lack of features of rickets at birth in infants with PDDR, a finding which has also been reported in infants born to vitamin D-deficient mothers. This highlights the independence of the fetus and neonate from the need for vitamin D to maintain calcium homeostasis during this period. The variable roles of vitamin D deficiency and dietary calcium deficiency in the pathogenesis of privational rickets are discussed and the associated alterations in vitamin D metabolism highlighted. Although PDDR is a rare autosomal recessive disorder, results of long-term follow-up are now available on the effect of treatment with calcitriol, and these are discussed. Areas of uncertainty, such as should affected mothers breastfeed their infants, are emphasized.